Google accused of making it harder to search for rival

Google stands accused of leveraging its dominant position in the market to hinder the visibility of a competitor’s email service in search results. Tuta Mail, boasting over ten million users globally, claims that since March, its presence in Google searches for “encrypted email” has notably diminished.

The company has formally lodged a complaint with the EU, asserting that Google’s actions have inflicted harm on their business, especially considering Google’s own widely used Gmail service.

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Google refutes these allegations, asserting that Tuta Mail remains easily discoverable through its search engine.

Tuta Mail’s complaint highlights a significant decline in its search result rankings, particularly for queries like “secure email,” resulting in a substantial drop of nearly 90% in monthly website visits.

“At the beginning of March 2024 Google suddenly stopped displaying our website for thousands of keywords,” it wrote in the complaint.

Following the change, traffic to its website only came from searches mentioning the name of its products.

“Google must stop this unfair limitation of showing our website in search results immediately,” Matthias Pfau, co-founder of Tuta Mail said.

‘Complex update’

Google’s algorithm uses a number of factors to determine the ranking of search results. When the algorithm is updated, it can have a big impact on businesses that rely on the visits search sends to their websites.

There was an update in early March, as a result of which Google warned there would be more fluctuations in rankings than usual.

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But it denies its updates are intended to favour any particular website, including its own.

“Search ranking updates absolutely do not aim to preference Google products, or any other particular website. The email provider in question is easily accessible globally on Search,” Google wrote.

Gmail has more than a billion users worldwide. Tuta argues that “niche” email services such as its own will not be able to grow into serious competitors if they don’t appear for common search terms.

In a blog post the firm accused the company of breaching a new EU law that came into force in March, which designated some large firms, including Google, as “gatekeepers” subject to additional legal restrictions.

This includes not treating their own services more favourably than rivals.

“Google in its role as a gatekeeper is impacting the profits and marketability of our private email service Tuta Mail – a direct competitor to Google’s Gmail, which goes against the Digital Markets Act”, the company wrote.

But, according to a Google spokesperson, Tuta ranks above Gmail for a range of email-related searches, including ones that don’t mention it as a brand and those it referred to in its blog.

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