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South Africa wants Google search overhaul

July 15, 2022

By Chris Forrester

South Africa’s Competition Commission is targeting Google’s activity in the nation and wants radical changes to Google’s search results. The intention is to force Google to make extremely clear what are paid-for results. A secondary intention is reportedly to end Google’s current status as the default search engine on the country’s smartphones.

The Commission, in its preliminary findings stated: “The prevalence of paid search at the top of the search results page without adequate identifiers as advertising raises platform customer acquisition costs and favours large, often global platforms. Preferential placement of their own specialist search units also distorts competition in Google’s favour.”

The Commission wants any paid-for search results to be labelled as “advertising with borders and shading to be clearer to consumers, and that the top of the page is reserved for organic, or natural, search results based on relevance only, uninfluenced by payments”.

The Commission is going further, and says that the inquiry “is also exploring whether the default position of Google Search on mobile devices should end in South Africa,” and argues that the current default system should be allowed to have greater competition between platforms.

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