A system Google set as much as promote competitors on Android has left some smaller serps having hassle gaining traction, fueling rivals’ complaints concerning the tech big’s compliance with a European Union antitrust determination forward of potential U.S. prices.

Since March,

Alphabet Inc.

-owned Google has been displaying individuals in Europe who arrange new cellular units operating the corporate’s Android working system what it calls a “selection display,” an inventory of rival serps that they will choose because the system’s default. The system is a part of Google’s compliance with a 2018 determination that discovered the corporate used Android’s dominance to strong-arm telephone makers into pre-installing its search engine.

However some small serps which might be comparatively common in Europe didn’t win spots in giant European nations within the newest spherical of auctions to seem on the selection display, based on individuals acquainted with the outcomes. The outcomes, which cowl the fourth quarter of the 12 months, are set to be introduced on Monday.

DuckDuckGo Inc., maker of a U.S.-based search engine that doesn’t gather information about its customers, misplaced the public sale in all however 4 small European nations, the individuals mentioned. Berlin-based Ecosia, which donates most of its revenue to planting timber, additionally didn’t win a slot in any giant European nation, the individuals added.

The main winners of the auctions—which supply three spots in every of 31 nations to outdoors serps—embrace

Microsoft Corp.’s

Bing, in addition to a handful of different small serps, the individuals mentioned. Google doesn’t take part within the auctions however is obtainable robotically as a selection in each nation together with the public sale winners.

“In growing the selection display for Europe, we rigorously balanced offering customers with but extra selection whereas making certain that we are able to proceed to spend money on growing and sustaining the open-source Android platform for the long-term,” a Google spokeswoman mentioned. Google has defended its use of auctions saying that “an public sale is a good and goal methodology to find out which search suppliers are included.”

The elimination of some smaller serps provides fodder to Google rivals who’ve complained that the corporate has crafted its compliance with the EU’s antitrust selections in ways in which don’t essentially change the aggressive panorama. DuckDuckGo and Ecosia are the preferred small serps in Europe, with 0.5% and 0.3% market share as of August, respectively, based on Statcounter.

At situation is a hard-fought debate about whether or not competitors enforcement can—or ought to—transcend a slender deal with client welfare, or ought to try extra radical interventions to redraw the steadiness of market energy in instances of abuse.

DuckDuckGo and Ecosia have each previously mentioned auctions unfairly profit Google. Additionally they say the rivals most probably to reach an public sale are these which might be probably the most worthwhile, somewhat than these which might be greatest for, or hottest amongst, shoppers, and have known as for Google to supply longer lists of alternate options with out requiring firms to pay.

“The public sale itself is flawed,” mentioned Gabriel Weinberg, founder and chief govt of DuckDuckGo, who mentioned he bid as a lot as he estimated his firm may sustainably afford. “Anybody with much less adverts is getting harm. Anybody doing privateness is getting harm. Anybody doing issues the place they provide away revenue [to support causes] is getting harm.”

Microsoft declined to remark. The European Fee, the EU’s high antitrust authority, mentioned it continues to observe Google’s implementation of its treatment and has been discussing “the choice mechanism of rival search suppliers” with Google “following related suggestions from the market.”

The Wall Avenue Journal’s writer Information Corp is a longtime Google critic and has complained about a few of the firm’s conduct to regulators.

The dispute over Google’s compliance with EU antitrust selections comes because the U.S. Division of Justice is transferring towards bringing a lawsuit in opposition to the corporate, the Journal has reported. The division’s investigation into search is prone to be the important thing focus of a lawsuit that would come inside days, the Journal mentioned final week. DuckDuckGo has additionally supplied proof for U.S. congressional investigators.

Within the EU, Google’s selection display auctions are a part of its effort to adjust to a 2018 determination from the European Fee. The fee discovered, amongst different alleged violations, that Google had abused its management of the Android working system by forcing telephone makers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser if in addition they wished to incorporate Google’s Play retailer for apps, by far the most typical method to get Android apps.

Google appealed the choice, however nonetheless needed to change its contracts with telephone makers to eradicate that requirement. Below stress from EU regulators, Google later provided an extra concession: it could create a selection display for Android system customers to decide on various serps to be their default.

Such measures have previously appeared to chop into Google’s market share, for instance in Russia. In Europe, nonetheless, rivals have complained as a result of Google mentioned it could construction the selection display within the EU as an public sale. Google later modified the way it structured the auctions to cost much less, however  DuckDuckGo and others nonetheless mentioned {that a} “pay-to-play” mannequin risked eliminating them.

These complaints echo related points that rivals have raised about Google’s compliance with a separate EU antitrust determination, which alleged that Google abused the dominance of its search engine to spice up its personal product adverts in a field above search outcomes for web sites providing product comparisons. Google in that case additionally arrange an public sale for product-comparison websites to bid to seem within the field. Rivals initially received few of the auctions, and complained, although an EU official mentioned earlier this month that Google’s compliance has since improved.

Initially, DuckDuckGo received spots within the auctions for all European nations, together with Germany, France and the U.Ok. However earlier than the fourth-quarter public sale, DuckDuckGo mentioned it lowered its bids considerably to account for its mixture estimate of how a lot it really earnings from every person. DuckDuckGo’s Mr. Weinberg declined to say what he bid, however mentioned that he believes his firm can now not profitably seem within the Google selection display.

“Our information reveals that the desire menu as soon as it’s totally applied, will drive important site visitors,” Mr. Weinberg mentioned. “Our being out this time means we’re going to be out perpetually.”

Write to Sam Schechner at sam.schechner@wsj.com

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