Bing accuses Google of swindling shoppers with paid results

Microsoft says Google wants to "break the rules that made it a trusted brand" in a forthright attack, on a site called 'Scroogled'.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
2 min read

Microsoft has launched an all-out assault on Google, accusing the Big G of swindling shoppers by taking cash to send paid-for product listings to the top of its search results.

In a furious campaign dubbed 'Scroogled' and headlined by Microsoft's own Bing search engine, Microsoft says Google, "wants to break the rules that made it a trusted brand".

Bing's beef is with a relatively new approach to Google's shopping search, which factors in how much retailers have paid to have their products listed when it decides which items to place close to the top of your results.

Google revealed the change in May, a revision which it calls a "purely commercial model" that calculates result ranking "based on a combination of relevance and bid-price".

Although Google places a drop-down explanatory note on its shopping page that says "payment is one of several factors used to rank these results", it does seem there's a strong possibility that would-be buyers could browse results without knowing that retailers had paid Google cash to make their results show up.

Headed to the UK

Google's revisions to Shopping are only in the US for now, but earlier this month the Android-maker said it would be rolling out the new commercial model in the UK as well as other countries, with the first major change due on 13 February.

Update: In a comment sent to CNET UK, Google says, "We made the transition to Google Shopping to improve the shopping experience for our users."

The Big G continues, "We believe that having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date. Higher quality data -- whether it's accurate prices, the latest offers or product availability -- should mean better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic for merchants."

I've also contacted Microsoft about the campaign, and I'll let you know if I hear back.

Bing describing its 'scroogling' campaign as being "on behalf of consumers" is bit rich, considering it's little more than a sly attempt to purloin some of Google's customers, but it does raise an important point about how clearly paid-for results are highlighted in search engines.

Do you think Google's search is unethical? Or is Bing making a fuss over nothing? Tell me in the comments or on our Facebook wall.