Price comparison site Foundem has accused Google boss Eric Schmidt of “inconsistencies and inaccuracies” in statements submitted to an investigation into alleged anticompetitive practices.
Foundem claims it was penalised at the expense of Google's own product search tools – and is one of several companies that called for competition hearings on both sides of the Atlantic looking into “search neutrality”.
According to Foundem, Schmidt gave confusing answers to the Senate Antitrust Committee in a hearing back in September, and has added to the confusion in written responses submitted to follow-up questions.
The significant inconsistencies and inaccuracies in Mr Schmidt’s testimony at the hearing have only been amplified by those in his written answers
“A few of Mr Schmidt’s written answers seem gratuitously evasive,” the company said on its Search Neutrality blog.
“Many are markedly at odds with Google’s existing documents and prior statements. And some are just plain wrong. The significant inconsistencies and inaccuracies in Mr Schmidt’s testimony at the hearing have only been amplified by those in his written answers.”
Foundem survey data was used during the senate hearing to highlight what the company claims were favourable results rankings for Google's Product Search, which appeared higher than rival price comparison sites.
According to Foundem, Schmidt played down the issue by claiming Google's product search was not a price comparison tool, despite the fact that its own listings refer to it as “Google's UK price comparison service”.
“In the hearing, Mr Schmidt ducked several of Senator Lee’s questions about the troubling findings of this study with the bizarre claim that Google Product Search is not a price comparison service," Foundem said.
However, in his written response, Foundem says Schmidt had changed his tune, claiming: “Google product search is a type of thematic search that allows consumers to compare prices and see which websites are selling a particular product.”
According to Foundem, such tactics were helping Google to confuse the regulators looking into the allegation of search manipulaton.
In hearings and in public, Google has denied favouring its own products in results, but has yet to respond to a request for comments on the latest accusations.