Google makes proposal to EU investigators

2 February 2013
By Edward Gent
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Google has moved to ally competition regulators' concerns about its business practices

Google has moved to ally competition regulators' concerns about its business practices

Google has offered to take steps to allay competition regulators' concerns about its business practices.

The European Commission has received detailed proposals from the internet giant, which has been under investigation following complaints from more than a dozen companies, including Microsoft, that Google has used its market power to block rivals.

Companies found to be in breach of EU rules can be fined as much as 10 per cent of global turnover, which could mean up to $4 billion if there is no satisfactory resolution in Google's case, but if the commission accepts the proposals under its settlement procedure, it would mean no fine and no finding of wrongdoing against Google.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia confirmed he had received Google's submission, but declined to give details of the proposal while Google spokesman Al Verney said the group continues to work cooperatively with the commission.

David Wood, legal counsel for lobby group Icomp, whose members include complainants Microsoft, Foundem, Hot-map, Streetmap and Nextag, said:  “To be seen as a success, any settlement must include specific measures to restore competition and allow other parties to compete effectively on a level playing field.

“Any settlement must include explicit acceptance by Google of its dominance and that it has damaged European businesses through its anti-competitive practices.”

There are more than twenty formal complainants in the case who argue that, among other things, Google favours its own services over rivals' in search results and has been "scraping" content from other sites to use in its own search results and using its position to deny other sites traffic.

The commission, which acts as competition regulator in the 27-member European Union, is also concerned the company may have put restrictions on advertisers and advertising to prevent them from moving their online campaigns to competing search engines.

The FairSearch coalition, whose members include online travel agencies and complainants Expedia and TripAdvisor, said a third-party monitor should be appointed to ensure that Google lives up to any promises.

The commission is now expected to seek feedback from Google's rivals and other interested parties, before launching an official market test.

Last month, Google won a major victory when U.S. antitrust regulators ended their investigation, saying the company had not manipulated its web search results to block rivals.

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