September 1, 2015 Last Updated 8:56 am

Law firms in Europe team up to launch website meant to attract business lawsuits against Google

Morning Brief: Another wild ride for the stock markets today, as a new report shows Chinese manufacturing slowing, driving European markets and Dow futures sharply lower

The international law firm Hausfeld has launched a website platform in order to help companies sue Google for redress. Called GRIP – Google Redress & Integrity Platform – the website is, in essence, is a marketing site meant to drum up business for the law firm.

GRIP-flag“We believe that Google’s anticompetitive behaviour could have a significant impact on corporations, associations and consumers,” the GRIP websites states on its home page.

“We are here to help you evaluate and consider if such course of action would be appropriate for you. GRIP provides a confidential and efficient way for you to assess the extent of such impact, if any, on you and, potentially, work out an appropriate way for you to assert your rights in the marketplace.”

No doubt they will hope to gain web traffic when people search Google for “Google”.

The law firm has posted a video explaining its mission – and, no, it didn’t post it via YouTube, they used Vimeo:

The catalyst for the effort appears to be the Statement of Objections sent to Google in April by the European Commission. The document claims, for instance, that Google’s own paid advertising diverts traffic away from shopping services that would show up in search results.

Google’s Kent Walker, SVP & General Counsel responded to the claims in a post on Google’s Europe Blog, saying that the advertising Google inserts is itself useful information, not an attempt to divert traffic. To demonstrate, the blog showed an example of the new ad format Google is using.

“We don’t think this format is anti-competitive,” Walker wrote. “On the contrary, showing ads based on structured data provided by merchants demonstrably improves ad quality and makes it easier for consumers to find what they’re looking for. We show these ad groups where we’ve always shown ads — to the right and at the top of organic results — and we use specialized algorithms to maximize their relevance for users. Data from users and advertisers confirms they like these formats. That’s not “favoring” — that’s giving our customers and advertisers what they find most useful.”

The argument, I suppose, is that Google search results should only show what the user is searching for, not what Google wants them to see. Were search a regulated industry the European Commission could simply create a rule that governs how search engines can show their results – and to a certain extent that is precisely what the EC may be attempting to do through its Statement of Objections.

At the time the EC outlined its concerns the speculation was that Google could be subject to huge fines were it found guilty of the charge to shifting business, but the actions by the two law firms seems to be a way to piggy back on the Commission’s charges to the courts on behalf of the businesses themselves.

Google ran into trouble with German and Spanish newspaper publishers when accused to using their content in GoogLe News search results. Google responded in Germany by leaving results from the newspapers out of Google News, causing an immediate loss of traffic for the newspapers, and causing the paper to reverse themselves.

In Spain, where a Google tax was passed by the legislature, Google simply shutdown its Google News service. The impact was seen as minor to publishers initially, but a report commissioned by the Spanish Association of Publishers of Periodicals claims that the industry has lost around €10 million. The report argues that search results drive traffic to publishers and are therefore of benefit to them, rather than damaging.

“This suggests that, rather than damaging publishers, news aggregators are beneficial in that they drive web traffic to the publishers’ sites that otherwise would not have consulted those sources of information,” the report states. “This is clearly a justification against instituting the fee, particularly since it would be easy for a publisher to prevent an aggregator from linking to its content.”

There appears to be some sentiment in Spain that the new Google tax was passed at the request of a small group of major publishers, and that small publishers objected. This report may be their attempt at a response.

The roller coaster stock markets will once again be big news today following another down day in China. European stock markets are down big, and Dow futures currently show that the market will open at least 300 points lower.

The culprit looks to be a manufacturing report showing Chinese a marked slowdown, the biggest in three years. That this would surprise anyone and lead to a sell-off seems strange, but when the market wants to sell off, or conversely boom, all it needs in an excuse. Yesterday it was reported that a reporter for a Chinese magazine reporter was forced into a public confession for spreading rumors that contributed to the panic in the markets. If this continues we may have to expect more of this type of unique public shaming.

Meanwhile, oil prices have ended their three day rally. Price, which had fallen to as low as $38 a barrel, climbed swiftly to just under $50 a barrel. But the news from China regarding slowing manufacturing activity, which would forecast lower consumption there, has ended the rally, and oil traded down $2.

“It’s really being driven by the speculators. That’s why we’re seeing such wild swings,” Anthony Starkey, energy analysis manager for Bentek Energy, told CNN Money.

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