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Airlines, Hotels, and Retailers Voice Concerns Over Google’s Search Changes

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Brussels – Lobbying groups representing airlines, hotels, and retailers have urged European Union tech regulators to consider their perspectives, not just those of large intermediaries, as Google implements changes to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA). This landmark regulation seeks to provide users with more choices and enhance competition for rivals by imposing a series of dos and don’ts on Google and five other tech giants.

Airlines for Europe, which includes members such as Air France KLM and British Airways owner IAG, along with hotel groups Hotrec, the European Hotel Forum, EuroCommerce, Ecommerce Europe, and Independent Retail Europe, initially voiced their concerns in March regarding the potential impacts of the DMA. In a recent joint letter to EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager and EU industry chief Thierry Breton, these concerns have only intensified.

The groups’ letter, dated May 22, emphasizes fears that the current solutions and requirements being considered for DMA implementation could exacerbate discrimination against their industries. They argue that these changes might deplete direct sales revenues by giving more prominence to powerful online intermediaries, who would receive preferential treatment under the new rules.

“Our industries have serious concerns that currently considered solutions and requirements for implementing the DMA could further increase discrimination,” the groups wrote. They warn that initial observations indicate these changes risk severely depleting direct sales revenues by giving more prominence to powerful online intermediaries.

The European Commission is currently investigating Google for possible breaches of the DMA. This investigation is focused on ensuring that third-party services are treated in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. However, the concerned groups argue that the investigation should also acknowledge European businesses that offer their services on Google.

“We are concerned that the non-compliance investigation refers only to the need to treat third-party services in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, without any acknowledgment of European businesses that also offer their services on Google,” the groups said.

In a March blog post, Google acknowledged that changes to search results would likely drive more traffic to large intermediaries and aggregators, potentially at the expense of hotels, airlines, merchants, and restaurants. However, Google had no immediate comment on the recent joint letter from the lobbying groups.

The concerns raised by airlines, hotels, and retailers highlight the complexities and potential unintended consequences of the DMA. While the regulation aims to level the playing field and enhance user choice, industry stakeholders fear that the implementation of these rules may inadvertently harm their revenues by favoring larger intermediaries.

As the European Commission continues its investigation into Google’s compliance with the DMA, it remains to be seen how these regulations will be enforced and whether the concerns of smaller businesses will be adequately addressed. The dialogue between regulators and industry stakeholders will be crucial in shaping a fair and competitive digital market landscape.

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