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SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today endorsed a new website, “Focus on the User” and a downloadable “widget” available on the site that demonstrates how Google favors its own services in local search results.

View the web site here: http://focusontheuser.eu/

“Consumer Watchdog endorses the ‘Focus on the User’ project as an important way to educate consumers and policymakers about Google’s unfair search practices,” said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy project.

The website explains how Google uses its Google+ service to skew results in the so-called “one-box” that highlights results from location-based services.

“Google is acting anti-competitively by abusing its dominant position in organic search to tie its vertical search products, depriving consumers of relevant results, stifling competition and impairing innovation,” the “Focus on the User” website says. “Consumers need to be able to access competitive sources of information from across the web; by tying its own vertical search products to organic search results, Google prevents this.”

Importantly, the “Focus on the User” website goes beyond rhetoric and offers a downloadable widget, “Focus on the User – local”, that was developed by computer engineers from Yelp and TripAdvisor. The widget is an extension for Google’s browser, Chrome and allows the user to click between a display based on organic search results and the skewed results offered by Google because it ties them to Google+. The widget gives best results if searches are done on one of Google’s European domains, such as Google.ie or Google.co.uk, because they do not display a “carousel” of location results, but rather a simple one-box.

“Consumers can see and understand what’s going on in real time,” said Simpson.  “It’s eye opening and is a valuable tool.”

Google has been under investigation by the European Commission for antitrust violations since 2010.  Earlier this year the Internet giant offered a third settlement proposal.  Over the summer significant objections to the proposed deal were raised and outgoing Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said further concessions from Google would be needed to reach a settlement.

The case won’t be closed before Almunia leaves office Oct. 31 and it will be taken over by incoming Competition Commissioner Margarethe Vestager, former Danish Economics Minister. She will decide whether a negotiated settlement can be reached or if a formal Statement of Objections – like an indictment – should be filed.  That could make the Internet giant liable for fines of up to about $5 billion.

HolidayCheck, Jameda and Fight for the Future also endorsed the “Focus on the User” project.

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Visit Consumer Watchdog’s website at www.consumerwatchdog.org