Google and Apple's billion dollar search engine deal is under fire in the UK. The country's competition keeper is examining the excessive amount that Google Apple pays each year as the standard search engine for Safari, which, according to regulators, represents "a significant entry and expansion barrier" for competitors.
According to an updated study on online platforms and digital advertising submitted by the UK competition and market surveillance agency (via Reuters), Google spent £ 1.2 billion (~ $ 1.5 billion) last year to to be the search engine for browsers in all countries in the UK, the "vast majority" of which went to Apple.
The rest of the search engine operators, such as DuckDuckGo and Microsoft Bing, pay Apple a fee to stay as an alternative, to which users can switch manually via the browser settings. However, because they do not have the same resources as Google, it is "more difficult for these providers to expand their user base and improve their search quality and monetization rates for searches".
“Competing search engines with Google that we spoke to have highlighted these standard payments as one of the most important factors that inhibit competition in the search market. Consumers primarily access the Internet via mobile devices, which account for more than two thirds of general searches. This proportion has increased significantly in recent years and is likely to increase in the future, ”added the regulators in the report.
Apple switched from Microsoft Bing to Google as the default search engine for Safari and Siri three years ago for an annual sum of one billion dollars.
The report further suggests that Apple should consider offering users an option to choose a search engine when they first launch their browser, rather than configuring Google in Safari by default. Another way could be to limit Apple's ability to monetize standard search engine positions. However, this could result in Apple earning a significant portion of its annual sales.
The British cartel guard forced a similar change on Google a few years ago. As of 2019, Google will offer the country's Android users the option to select the search engine instead of using their own by default.
We asked Apple and Google for a comment and will update the story as soon as we hear anything.