European Parliamentarians want European institutions to end making free advertisements for proprietary software on their websites, by suggesting site visitors which application to use to access information. This product placement is distorting competition, argue five MEPs. "
Numerous EU public websites refer to proprietary software, like Acrobat Reader, as the only possible way of reading PDF files, and provide a download link. This is a case of direct advertising by public institutions, which creates a competitive advantage for one company to sell its products", the five write to the European Commission on 2 December.
The MEPs are asking the EC to go over its websites to find all instances of proprietary product placement. They also want to know whether the Commission makes a financial gain on the ads, or if there is a lack of suitable alternatives. "Have the institutions that have such advertising on their website explained whether they have tried other PDF readers before? Which software did they mention?"
The initiative for the written questions was taken by German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht: "The many references to a proprietary product show that the Commission is not aware of the problem. If the Commission would replace all of these ads by something that shows that there are alternatives, that would be an improvement."
PDF reader campaign
MEP Albrecht was made aware of the problem by a campaign launched by the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) in 2009. The free software advocacy group in early 2010 began contacting public administrations all over Europe to point out product placements for a proprietary PDF reader, finding free ads to one specific vendor on government websites in all European Union Member States. The group reported recently that a quarter of all public administrations it had contacted, improved the download links.