December 2016 / February 2018

Temporary Suspension of Foundem's service

-------------------------   February 2018 Update   -------------------------

"Competition abuse is difficult to understand, because its victims are usually invisible. Their presence is measured in absences: businesses abandoned; careers unfulfilled; innovations stifled at birth. Today, Foundem's website is the digital equivalent of a boarded-up house. But when the Raffs created it in 2005, it represented a technological epiphany: a search engine for the parts of the internet Google couldn't reach." Wired Magazine, February 2018

On 27 June 2017, the European Commission's investigation into Google's search manipulation practices culminated in a guilty verdict (Prohibition Decision). Although the record-breaking $2.7 billion fine dominated the headlines, the associated prohibition of Google's insidious and immensely harmful practices will prove far more important.

We are now working to ensure that Google complies with the equal treatment remedy set out in the Commission's Prohibition Decision, thereby restoring the level playing field required for competition and innovation to thrive. Regrettably, Google's current proposal is both ineffective and brazenly non-compliant.

For a unique insight into the behind-the-scenes story of the epic struggle to shed light on and end Google's anti-competitive practices, please see our recent (no-holds-barred) Podcast interview with Rowland Manthorpe of Wired Magazine and/or his excellent, long-read article, Google's nemesis: meet the British couple who took on a giant, won...and cost it £2.1 billion.

And, for an analysis of why the U.S. is poised to be the next important battleground, please see the (even-longer-read) The Case Against Google, by Charles Duhigg in the New York Times Magazine.

-------------------   Original December 2016 Statement   -------------------

Foundem is the lead Complainant in the European Commission's Google Search Case. It was our November 2009 Competition Complaint that triggered the European Commission's probe into Google's search manipulation practices.

In common with many of the World's leading vertical search services, Foundem was severely impacted by Google's "Panda" update (and its various follow-ons). Since the introduction of Panda in Europe in April 2011, we have struggled to maintain our service to the exacting standards that we set ourselves.

In March 2012, we suspended parts of our service pending the outcome of the European Commission's antitrust investigation into Google's search manipulation practices. We have now reluctantly taken the decision to temporarily suspend all remaining aspects of our service.

In April 2015, the Commission upheld our complaint and issued formal antitrust charges against Google (a Statement of Objections).

See here for our interactive deconstruction of Google's public response to the Commission's charges.

In July 2016, the Commission issued a Supplementary Statement of Objections (SSO) to Google, reinforcing the Commission's case with additional evidence.

See here for our December 2016 deconstruction of Google's public response to the SSO.

With a formal Prohibition Decision expected soon, the Commission has made clear that it will be seeking a remedy based on the equal-treatment/non-discrimination principle that has been widely endorsed by complainants, consumer groups and interested third parties. This remedy would simply require Google's search engine to hold all services, including Google's own, to exactly the same standards - subjecting them to exactly the same crawling, indexing, ranking, display, and penalty algorithms.

Note that the anticipated Prohibition Decision will cover all of Google's search results, regardless of whether they are accessed on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone, or through a browser or an App. And the required remedy is likely to extend far beyond product price comparison, to also include travel search, local search, and other existing and future specialised search services.

It is difficult to imagine a Competition case where the stakes for consumers, businesses and innovation could be any higher. Google's overwhelming dominance of search and search advertising means that it plays a decisive role in determining what the vast majority of us discover, read, use, and purchase online. The importance of ending Google practices that have been quietly manipulating this unprecedented power to Google's own financial and anti-competitive ends cannot be overstated.

As the company that first brought Google's insidious, anti-competitive search manipulation practices to the attention of regulators on both sides of the Atlantic, Foundem is uniquely placed to shed light on the background and context of this important case. For a summary of the significant events in the Google Search Case, please see our Timeline.

Unfortunately, for some time now, it has not been possible to maintain our service at an acceptable level. We have been reluctant to suspend our remaining service until now, because doing so could make it more difficult to re-enter the market once the Commission has restored a level playing field. We have only felt able to leave our service accessible for this long because Google's various anti-competitive algorithmic penalties have meant that few visitors reach Foundem to witness how it has become a pale shadow of its former self.

We look forward to reviving our service as soon as the Commission's remedy is in operation and the level playing field required for competition and innovation to thrive has been restored.

Until then, we thank our users for their patience and understanding.

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