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Google to “Work Constructively” with South African Authorities

File: Representative illustration of Google logo. Taken 3.23.201o

South Africa’s Competition Commission (AFCC) will examine Google with allegations that the search engine occupies a near-monopolistic position in the country, especially on the nation’s users of smartphones.

The South African body, which has probed online markets for the past 14 months, has found that Google’s search engine practices distort competition in its favor.

The South African Competition Commission adds that Google does not make sufficiently clear that its top recommendations are often the result of ‘paid for’ advertising.

SACC released preliminary findings in a long-running inquiry into the state of competition online, covering everything from property sales to food delivery.

The inquiry gave Google specific design instructions on how it should present search results and explained its concern about the ability of small businesses and black companies to compete online.

In response to SACC’s inquiry, Google has stressed that it is good for competition, and faces competition.

Google has responded that it will “work constructively” with SACC to counter its provisional findings that suggest Google should be forced to be clearer as to which of its recommendations are backed by advertising.

"Our products increase choice and expand competition. They level the playing field for small businesses everywhere enabling them to sell their products, find customers, reduce their costs and, in difficult times, get back on their feet.”

SACC made it clear that it wants Google to downgrade the position it gives to paid advertising in search results, a line of business worth more than $13 billion per month globally.

SACC provisional recommendations include specific design directions, asking Google to include "a large, bold and unambiguous 'ADVERT' label in the middle above the impression" when it serves ads within search results.

"These remedial actions are likely to aid in reducing the efficacy and price of ads, lowering costs to platforms and aiding smaller platforms which benefit from elevating organic results too.”

The commission wants the same remedies applied to specialist Google services such as Maps, Flights, and Shopping.