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Yelp’s Research Challenges Effectiveness of Google’s Compliance with EU Regulations

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 5, 2024

Yelp’s Research Challenges Effectiveness of Google’s Compliance with EU Regulations

Yelp, a leading company in the reviews sector, has raised significant concerns about Google’s recent overhaul of its search engine design for various services, including flights, trains, hotels, restaurants, and products. These adjustments, made in anticipation of the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) enforcement, aim to prevent large tech firms from prioritizing their services over competitors.

The DMA is a pioneering legislation intended to foster a more equitable digital marketplace by offering smaller companies a fairer opportunity to compete against tech giants. However, Yelp argues that these changes by Google might not level the playing field as intended, but rather further cement Google’s dominant market position.

Yelp’s Response to Google’s Changes

According to Yelp, Google’s redesigned search results have led to an increased likelihood of users remaining within Google’s ecosystem, thus reducing traffic to competing services. Yelp’s assertions are based on its own testing, which revealed that the new design changes made users less inclined to click through to Yelp and other Google competitors. This has raised alarms that Google’s attempt to comply with the DMA could actually worsen the competitive landscape for smaller businesses.

Detailed Findings from Yelp’s Testing

Yelp’s testing, conducted in partnership with user-research firm Lyssna, involved observing how consumers interacted with Google’s new EU search results page. The key findings include:

  • Preference for Google’s Ecosystem: There was a marked preference for staying within Google’s ecosystem, with a notable increase in the percentage of users opting for Google-provided results over alternatives.
  • Prominent Google Maps Data: The design that featured Google Maps data prominently led to an increased likelihood of users selecting Google’s offerings.
  • New Box Widget for Reviews: Despite the introduction of a new box widget linking to review websites like Yelp further down the page, Google’s services still captured the majority of user clicks.
  • Visibility of Alternative Websites: Even when alternative review websites were made more visible in search results, Google’s services tended to dominate user attention and clicks.

Amidst these developments, Yelp has called on the European Commission to thoroughly investigate Google’s compliance with the DMA, emphasizing the need for Google to adhere not just to the letter but the spirit of the law. This comes as the DMA’s enforcement date draws near, with the European Commission poised to take action against any violations. The commission has expressed its commitment to ensuring the DMA fulfills its objective of opening markets and fostering innovation, indicating that it will not hesitate to enforce compliance.

Google Defends Its Search Redesign

Google, on the other hand, contends that the alterations to its search engine, numbering over 20, are in full compliance with the DMA and are intended to enhance the visibility of services like Yelp in search results.

Google spokesperson Rory O’Donoghue highlighted that internal tests showed an uptick in clicks to review and comparison websites, even though this came at the cost of reduced direct traffic to Google’s tools and certain businesses. The company asserts that these changes are part of its effort to balance various stakeholders’ needs while adhering to the new regulatory framework.

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Featured Image courtesy of Anadolu Agency via Getty Images and Chris Goodney/Bloomberg

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.