Did Naspers chief do Indeed (and all job sites) a favor?

28 Jun 2017

In January last year, we wrote this headline: ‘Google is screwing us — Koos Bekker’. The article (here) told the story of Naspers chairman Bekker, Google, and alleged unfair competition in Poland.

The background: Allegro and Google Poland had been sparring ever since 2012, when Google removed links to Tablica (now called OLX.pl), Poland’s No. 1 general classifieds platform, claiming that it had violated Google’s SEO rules. In turn, Allegro claimed that Google did it to damage competitors and promote its own services. At the time, Allegro even joined the FairSearch.org coalition, lobbying against Google (together with Nokia and Oracle).

By 2014 Allegro was still lobbying against Google – now in Brussels. There Chris Sherwood, a lobbyist working for Allegro, tried to convince the European Commission (EC) that its settlement with Google was very disadvantageous for the European e-commerce market.

In April 2015, the EU formally complained against Google for “… systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages”. Here is the EC’s complaint and here FairSearch’s reaction.

By early 2016, Bekker was still on Google Poland’s case. When asked by a CapeTalk radio interviewer what Bekker got out of a visit to Davos, Switzerland, Bekker said: “Davos is about the opportunity to meet governments and talk about things. For instance, in Poland, Google is screwing us. It pretends to do an objective search. In fact, (Google Poland) moves traffic to its sites, because they are now starting out in e-commerce.

“So, the EC has to look into the situation, and decide whether this constitutes misuse of a monopoly.” At Davos, one gets the opportunity to talk to governments about (such issues), he said.

Back to now: This week the European Commission gave judgment in favor of the complainants (of which Koos Bekker was one) and slapped a fine of €2.42 billion ($2.6 billion U.S.) on Google for ” … breaching EU antitrust rules.

“Google has abused its market dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, namely its comparison shopping service. The company must now end the conduct within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to 5 percent of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.” (Emphasis ours.) 

By now, Allegro and Ceneo, the price comparison site in Poland, had long been sold off by Naspers, and Bekker’s direct interest in the problem probably much diminished. But, this EC ruling might just be relevant for another reason — one that all classified verticals (especially jobs verticals) might want to know about.

A hint: Read the whole judgment here. And all the time substitute the phrase “own job-search service” for the phrase “own comparison-shopping service” in the ruling.

Christmas might just have come early for the managers of Indeed! At least, this judgment may cause Google to be very careful how it presents Google Jobs listings against other job search engines (although for now, Google Jobs is not yet in Europe, and Google is not planning its own listings on Google Jobs, or whatever it ends up being called — the Google Jobs Cloud API – editor). At least. There might even be more dynamite in the ruling.

Talk to your legal advisor. Then, you may want to put in a “thank you call” to Koos Bekker.

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Christo Volschenk

Christo Volschenk is managing editor of the news on Aimgroup.com and our senior analyst covering Naspers. He brings more than 31 years of experience in business journalism to the team - the last 18 years focused on classifieds and e-commerce. Apart from working closely with the AIM Group, Christo is a freelance journalist, content manager, and copy editor. Before branching out on his own, he spent 15 years with Naspers in South Africa as journalist, economics editor and online project manager. He now spends most his day editing the news reported by 23 colleagues in 23 countries from his base in Stuttgart, Germany.