October 25, 2021

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Yandex Accused of Anti-competitive Practices in Russia via @martinibuster

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Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) issued a one month warning to Yandex to stop showing preference to its own sites. Yandex responded that it is serving users and that the complaining companies themselves exclude Yandex on their platforms.

The FAS is a federal government agency tasked with enforcing antitrust laws.

The FAS accused Yandex of monopolistic practices in their search engine by giving preference to their own Internet properties. They are accused of using an interactive widget area to funnel users to their own sites and not giving competitors the opportunity to show up in the interactive sections.

The interactive widget area shows up after the PPC advertising but before the traditional ten blue links.

According to a Russian news report:

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“The Federal Antimonopoly Service issued a warning to Yandex and demanded that it stop discriminating in search results links to companies that are not part of its digital ecosystem. This is stated in the message of the department.

As the FAS established, Yandex in its search results gives an advantage to its own services.”

Competitors have complained about this Yandex feature since at least 2019.

“Five sites… believe that Yandex restricts access to their services, violating competition law.

“Yandex “, according to these companies, gives priority to the related services via so-called “koldunschikov”. Such responses to user queries appear on the search results page immediately after ads and before organic results (for example, weather forecast, picture, word translation, etc.).

Services unrelated to Yandex cannot access such interactive responses, the authors of the note claim.”

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The key claim is that the interactive widget area excludes non-Yandex companies from appearing there, which they claim is anti-competitive.

Yandex has asserted that they have never downgraded other sites from the organic search results and that the widget areas do not appear for all searches.

In their response, Yandex claimed to be more fair than Google.

Explaining the widget areas in question, Yandex insisted:

“…they appear in the search results only when they improve the quality of the response to a user’s request. And this is a big difference from the antitrust case in Europe with the Google Shopping service.”

Yandex pointed out that the complaining companies of not showing links back to Yandex services from their sites, in an apparent allegation of hypocrisy.

“We hope that links to Yandex services will be able to appear, for example, on the issue of Avito (Auto.ru and Yandex.Realty), 2GIS (Navigator and Directory), ivi ( Kinopoisk “), on” Kassir.ru “, etc.”

Despite the explanations from Yandex, the FAS accused Yandex of violating anti-monopoly laws and provided a list of conditions they must abide by within a one month period of time.

Search and Social Under Pressure

Search engines and and social networks are under increasing pressure in Europe, Australia and the United States for anti-competitive and monopolistic practices. Yandex in Russia is no exception to that trend as governments try to regulate technology companies.

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