Google has come under fire from an American watchdog over its Google Shopping service.

Consumer Watchdog has sent a new report to the Federal Trade Commission over its concerns about advertisements in the service and reportedly higher cost items appearing to take precedence on the listing ahead of other cheaper items.

Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director, John M. Simpson, wrote in the letter: “The way that the Internet giant is featuring results from Google Shopping without making it clear that the highlighted results are nothing more than advertisements for merchants who bid for placement is an unfair and deceptive act, violating Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.”

To back up its claims, the Consumer Watchdog group did a test involving 14 product searches on Google and Comparison Shopping Engines (CSE) and found eight out of the 14 products were available at lower prices on other CSEs, it even made the claim users of Google’s service could pay as much as 67% more than those using another CSE.

The Financial Times did a similar small scale study and reported five out of six items highlighted in the Google Shopping search were actually more expensive than items browsers could view further down the listings.

The letter to the FTC also claimed: “Google’s abuse of its monopoly position in search has not only harmed competitors, but has cost consumers money.

“Google is able to increase its revenue and cause higher prices for consumers because of its monopoly position in search and the way it favours its own services over those of its rivals in search results.”

A Google spokeswoman challenged the Consumer Watchdog’s claims however, suggesting any adverts were clearly marked.

She said: “Our Shopping results are clearly labelled as sponsored.

“We’ve always worked to ensure that users can easily distinguish between paid and organic content on the Google search results page.”

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About the author:

Martin Boonham is an online copywriter for ClickThrough Marketing, he has worked there since October 2012. He has a Masters in Print Journalism from Nottingham Trent University, where he also gained his NCTJ qualification at the same time; achieving qualifications in subbing, shorthand and media law.