DuckDuckGo, rivals want EU's Vestager to set up Google meeting

From Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - US search engine DuckDuckGo and four of its European counterparts asked EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager on Tuesday to arrange a meeting with Google to address concerns about the continued dominance of the alphabet unit on Android devices.
With Google, competitors were able to compete via quarterly auctions as the default search engines for new Android devices in Europe last year after Vestager fined the company € 4.34 billion ($ 5.1 billion) for targeting competitors Blocked Android smartphones and notebooks.
However, the competitors have criticized the auctions and repeated their complaints about Google's auctions in an open letter to Vestager, DuckDuckGo, Qwant and Lilo from France, Ecosia from Germany and their Czech colleague Seznam.
"We know that Google updates you regularly regarding its pay-to-play auction, but it seems you may not get complete or accurate information," they said.
"We are writing to request a trilateral meeting with your office, ourselves and Google with the aim of establishing an effective settings menu," the letter added, referring to how Android users set their preferred search engine.
According to Google in September, Microsoft Bing, Puerto Rico-based PrivacyWall, and US-based were the top winners in the most recent quarterly auction. As with any auction, bidders offer to pay for access, but how much they will pay has not been disclosed.
According to Google, the auctions aim to give all search providers the same opportunity to place bids and not to give certain competitors special treatment.
DuckDuckGo, which won the auction in eight countries in September, criticized the process at the time, saying it encouraged bidders to take advantage of users.
"Google's auction is another incentive for search engines to downgrade privacy, raise ads, and not donate to charity because if they did those things they could afford to bid higher," DuckDuckGo said in one Blog post.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Holmes)

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