The chief executives of DuckDuckGo, Ecosia and Qwant published an open letter on Tuesday (July 5) with ten principles on how to enable consumers to effectively change their default settings.
This recommendation comes on the very day that the European Parliament is preparing to adopt the law on digital markets (Digital Markets ActDMA), a historic regulation that will introduce rules for the most important online platforms, access controllers (“gatekeepers”).
Among the obligations of the DMA, access controllers will have to allow users to modify their default settings for virtual assistants, web browsers and search engines, in particular by presenting a “multiple choice screen” with the main services available on first use.
The Ten Principles offered by Google’s competitors aim to ensure that the way these choice screens are implemented is fair and allows efficient switching between different services.
For the three technology companies, the possibility of switching services must be free and clearly visible, in particular by including it in the main menu. In other words, users should be able to switch services at any time, not just at go-live.
In addition, it is the operating systems that should periodically offer the screens of choice to users, for example following system updates that could alter the default settings.
In addition, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia and Qwant pointed out that the chosen service should be applied to all access points. For example, on a smartphone, there are several ways to launch a search, via the “Search widget”, the web browser or the virtual assistant.
All three companies started out as search engines, but have now developed their own web browsers. They therefore demand “functional eligibility criteria”namely that the only reason to be included in the choice screen process is the functional capability of the application.
For companies, the modification of the default parameters must be done in one go for the different access points. In particular, if the same service provider offers both a web browser and a search engine, the user must be able to switch to both services with a single click.
The list of options available on the choice screen should be based on the choices the user expects, the letter continues. This means that it should reflect the reality of the market, with the services with the highest market shares displayed at the top, the least popular at the bottom, and the members of both groups should be displayed in random order.
The DMA also provides that users should be able to remove pre-installed apps, except “when such software applications are essential to the operation of the operating system or device”.
The open letter warns that supervisors should not be allowed to exploit this provision by giving search engines and browsing apps the status of ” operating system “. Additionally, it requests that a multiple-choice screen appear whenever one of these default apps is uninstalled.
In addition, the companies are calling for the establishment of a transparent dashboard allowing participating services to see the performance of these choice screens on a daily basis, including analyzes of user behavior.
The European Commission will be able to adapt the obligations of the DMA to the reality of specific services on the basis of the so-called regulatory dialogue procedure.
This dialogue is also supposed to involve consumer representatives and competitors, hence the possibility of integrating these principles into the mode of operation of the choice screens.