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Microsoft iCOMP extends anti-Google push to Australia

Calls for regulator inquiry into search

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An online retailer lobby launched by Microsoft and Burson-Marsteller in Europe in 2007 to oppose the Google-DoubleClick merger has planted its flag in the Australian retail market.

In a submission to the Australian Productivity Commission inquiry into the retail industry, the astroturf lobby group highlights Google’s admitted dominance of search. “Anyone who cares about Australia’s digital and economic future should understand the role of search engines,” the group writes, “and how competition in search affects Australian online businesses and consumers.”

The report claims that search advertising in Australia is “worth around A$2 billion” – a figure which would put Google’s search advertising income at more than A$1.8 billion, given its estimate of the Chocolate Factory’s share at more than 90 percent of the Australian market. Microsoft’s Bing, by comparison, is only credited with 5 percent of search in Australia.

If Google’s share of advertising income matches its share of all searches, then its take from Australia is far ahead of the roughly A$700 million that’s the accepted estimate.

The iCOMP submission also reiterates a complaint made in a number of countries for several years: that Google appears to structure its search algorithms to favour its own services over its competitors. The submission cites the ongoing Foundem case in Europe, in which the vertical search company, an iCOMP member, has accused Google of “disappearing” its site from searches.

Among other things, the iCOMP submission ends with a call for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to “open a formal inquiry into Google’s practices and market dominance”.

The submission is credited to Louise O’Donnell, an account manager at Ogilvy lobbying outfit Packer Partners.

While iCOMP’s Website acknowledges the group’s industry links, it’s much more coy in its Productivity Commission submission: neither Packer Partners, Burson-Marsteller nor Microsoft are named in the document, and O’Donnell gives a Hotmail e-mail as her contact. ®

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