EU, Google near deal in anti-trust case, pending competitors' approval
AFPBRUSSELS--The EU hopes to end a high-stakes anti-trust dispute with Internet giant Google by next spring, European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia said on Tuesday, with a settlement seeming increasingly possible.
October 2, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
Pressed by Google's many rivals, the European Commission has accused the U.S. Internet giant of giving unfair preference in search results to its own services, such as surveys of restaurants and hotels.
Google attempted to assuage the concerns earlier this year, but the EU said the US internet giant still fell short of satisfying complaints from its competitors.
But a new proposal submitted early in September and worked on with the Commission ever since shows “significant improvements,” Almunia told lawmakers in European Parliament.
If agreed, the new proposals could substantially change the appearance and operations of the world's most used search engine, but it remains to be seen if Google's rivals will accept the changes.
In a brief statement, Google executive Kent Walker said the company had substantially revisited its first proposal despite “thriving” online competition.
“This has been a very long and very thorough investigation,” Walker said, and Google had made “the difficult decision” to agree to EU requirements.
Almunia said a questionnaire will now be put to plaintiffs and market participants “in order to conclude whether this new proposal is satisfactory from a competition point of view.”
If satisfactory, the commission will continue on the negotiated settlement route “and end up with a formal decision next spring,” he said.
Otherwise, the commission will be forced to send objections to Google “in the coming months,” he said, beginning a process that could punish Google with fines of up to 10 percent of its total annual sales.
On Tuesday, the FairSearch alliance of companies which have pressed Brussels to take action against Google said they would withhold a response “until we have seen the details of Google's proposed remedies.”
It however added that it looked “forward to a deep and broad market test” which was “the only way to test the effectiveness of the proposed remedies.”