August 31, 2023

South Africa’s Competition Commission Alleges Google’s Search Dominance Distorts Market Competition


South Africa’s Competition Commission released a report that alleged that Google and tech companies were hindering fair market competition and the growth of South Africa’s digital economy.

The watchdog claimed that Alphabet Inc. -owned Google’s search dominance “distorts platform competition” in favor of prominent market players.

In addition, the report recommends several remedies focused on improving visibility for smaller South African companies in search results to address the issue.

What did the report find?

According to the commission’s report, Google’s model disadvantages new, small and underfunded South African businesses.

The report indicates that it not only has become direct competition to its clients by offering some of the services it renders, but it also pays unfairly by prioritizing its offerings over theirs. 

The commission then released a set of solutions for Google to follow, such as providing a South African badge and search filter to enable consumers to find and identify local platforms quickly.

It additionally asked Google to introduce a new feature that displays smaller South African platforms relevant to consumer search, specifically in travel and shopping.

They want Google to provide support programs worth 330 million rand ($17.6 million) over five years and 180 million rand ($9.6 million) of the investment in advertising credits.

The remaining amount will go to technical training, credits for other Google products, startup training and networking.

“Google influences platform competition because it is where most online journeys start,” said Competition Commission Chairman James Hodge in a media briefing.

“Google does give prominence to paid results, which means that the largest platforms with the biggest marketing budgets can dominate the Google search page.”

The findings are the result of a broad investigation into Google and other tech platforms operating in South Africa over competition concerns that launched in 2021.

When asked by Rest of World about its plans to adhere to or contest the watchdog’s remediations.

Instead, the company indicated in an emailed statement that it would continue to create choices and generate millions of free visits to South African sites and businesses.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.