The Competition Commission wants Google to better identify adverts that come up in searches and place them lower down the page from organic search results, while also recommending that Google not be the built-in search option on SA mobile phones.

A Business Day report says this forms part of the provisional wide-ranging recommendations for online retailers and websites, including Google, Airbnb, Booking.com, Apple, Uber and Takealot as well as international and local restaurant franchisees.

The 14-month inquiry investigated property classified sites, online and brick and mortar retailers, food delivery services and app stores.

It also investigated booking sites for flight tickets and hotels and comparator sites.

Final recommendations from market inquiries are now binding in law, said Advocate Margaretha Engelbrecht.

This means that once final, they can be legally challenged by companies but it is not yet clear whether a review would be before the Competition Tribunal or High Court, she said.

When Google is used to search for a product or business, paid adverts are displayed at the top of a page. The inquiry recommends that advertising is clearly displayed and labelled as an advert with a border and they should appear much lower down the page.

The commission said locally developed apps could not easily be found on the Google Play store and Apple app store as international apps appeared first.

It recommends that these app stores ‘provide country-specific curation of app recommendations and provide free promotional credits to SA app developers to help get visibility’.

The Business Day report notes that when addressing food delivery, the commission said companies like Uber Eats and Mr D should not enforce rules that prevent restaurants from selling food more cheaply on their websites.

The firms also should not engage in predatory pricing – with extreme low-price food promotions that lose money but entrench their services as market delivery leaders.

International and national restaurant chains may not restrict their franchisees’ choice of local food delivery platform, and must communicate the lack of restrictions to franchisees, the commission recommended.

It also said small business should pay lower fees to use companies such as Takealot and Uber Eats.

Full Business Day report