EU warms to Google antitrust concessions

by Reuters    Jul 25, 2012

GoogleEuropean Union antitrust regulators said on Tuesday they were encouraged by new concessions offered by Google to settle an investigation into alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

The European Commission wants the Internet search giant to offer concessions that cover all platforms, including computers, tablets and mobile devices.

A source earlier told Reuters that Google’s latest proposal covered these formats.

The Commission did not say what Google had proposed, but did say that they formed the basis of further technical discussions.

“I can confirm we have reached a good level of understanding with Google based on its proposals,” EU competition policy spokesman Antoine Colombani said.

The EU’s competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, is holding a news conference on a number of cases on Wednesday. The source told Reuters Almunia was likely to make an announcement about Google then.

The EU watchdog has said Google may unfairly favour other Google services over rivals and may have copied material from other websites, such as travel and restaurant reviews without permission.

It is also concerned that Google’s advertising deals may exclude third parties from concluding similar deals with rivals while contractual restrictions on software developers may prevent advertisers from transferring their online campaigns to rival search engines.

Companies can be fined up to 10 percent of their turnover for breaching EU rules. In Google’s case, that could reach $4 billion based on its 2011 results.

The world’s most popular search engine has proposed the concessions in a bid to settle an 18-month long investigation fuelled by complaints from rivals including Microsoft.

Google has fine-tuned its proposals on a number of occasions.