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Google Shopping: Comparison Shopping Services

Some time ago we wrote a blog post (Dutch) about the European Commission’s crackdown on Google’s antitrust behaviour regarding Google Shopping. By systematically putting its comparison service on top of the search results, it was disadvantaging comparison services such as beslist.nl and kieskeurig.be. As promised, we would follow up on the situation.

Google complied with the Commission’s ruling and has rolled out a feature that gives other price comparison websites a fair chance of appearing on top of the search results, inside the Google Shopping module. This means that price comparison websites inside the European Economic Area and Switzerland can now also bid to appear, actively going into competition with Google Shopping, which is now treated the same way as any other Comparison Shopping Service (CSS).

This means we have entered a somewhat strange new era where a retailer managing their own search advertising, will compete against CSSs offering your own products. However, the engineers at Google are clever. If a retailer or a CSS wins the search advertising bid to display an ad in the search results, it will pay the price for a click that was offered by one of its competitors. This means it’s safe to use multiple comparison websites, without paying extra… at all. Here’s an example, offered by the Google Merchant Center Help:

CSSs that wish to sign up for Google Shopping need to be whitelisted and comply to a list of standards to ensure the website is an actual website where prices are compared. They also need to make a separate Merchant Center account for each merchant they represent.

The Guardian reports that many price comparison sites think these Google Shopping modifications don’t go far enough. Although some CSSs claimed to boycott Google Shopping -- giving Google the opportunity to monopolize its service again -- we still have to see them put their money where their mouth is. Especially since we’ve bumped into dozens of CSSs in Google Shopping over the past few weeks.

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