Yelp trolls Google CEO as he meets with the EU antitrust leader

Yelp is trolling Google CEO Sundar Pichai as he meets with senior EU officials on Thursday.

Pichai’s session will include chief antitrust official Margrethe Vestager, who led charges accusing Google of favouring its own shopping service in search results in a still on-going case.

Yelp, long one of Google’s most vocal critics, has altered a letter Pichai wrote in support of the EU’s case against Microsoft in 2009, to show its own complaints against Google.

Yelp says that Google skews its results when users make local queries — like Mission burrito restaurant — to favour its own products above organic results. The company has sponsored several studies against Google and this letter is another way to further its campaign against the company (CEO Jeremy Stoppelman recently accused it of being up to “a lot of cloak and dagger stuff” in Washington).

Here’s the post from Pichai that Yelp VP of public policy Luther Lowe edited and then tweeted(click to enlarge):

Here’s the easier-to-read version of the new post:

Last year the European Commission confirmed that it had sent a statement of objections to Google about the tying of Google+ Local to Google, which it said “stifles competition and harms consumers.” Then in a tweet earlier last month, Columbia Law professor Tim Wu weighed in, saying that “The disgrace of Google+ was not that it failed; failure is not dishonorable. It was allowing it to corrupt other parts of the company.”

We are a complainant in the European Commission’s proceeding. Here’s why:

First, local search engines are critical to the Internet – they enable us to find great pediatricians, mechanics, hotels, restaurants, museums, and hair stylists, by connecting us to offline SMEs. And because local search is so central to every user’s web experience, local search engines are crucial to innovation online.

Second, Yelp and a slew of consumer groups and local search services believe that the search market is still largely uncompetitive, which holds back innovation for users. This is because Google+ Local is tied to Google’s dominant general search service, giving it an unfair advantage over other local search services. It’s even worse in the mobile market, where Google can tie Google Play, Google+ Local, Google Docs, Chrome, Google Maps, etc. to a dominant operating system (Android), and its suite of undeletable apps therefore have a much higher usage. The value of competition for users (even in the limited form we see today) is clear: more consumer reviews, richer information in long tail categories, better protection from spam, and more. Even greater competition will drive more innovation within local search engines themselves – as well as in app development, enabling vertical search engines to offer new kinds of interactive tools and applications.

Finally, we believe that we can contribute to this debate. We learned a lot from launching our own Google Chromee xtension last year and are hoping that Focus on the User coalition‘s perspective will be useful as the European Commission evaluates remedies to improve the user experience and offer consumers real choices. In fact, as Focus on the Userdemonstrates, a remedy that helps solve one problem without creating other unintended consequences is easy!

We don’t know how the Commission’s proceeding will evolve. But we are confident that more competition in this space will mean greater innovation on the web and a better user experience for people everywhere.

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