Google Submits EU Antitrust Settlement Proposal

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Google has reportedly submitted its proposals to settle the European Union’s antitrust concerns

Google has again handed over its proposals to settle the European Union antitrust investigation into Google’s conduct in the marketplace.

The development, which has been awaited for weeks, was reported in a 31 January article by The Register. Google had sent previous lists of proposals to the EU last summer, but those earlier proposals failed to satisfy European regulators. Google was given more time, until 31 January, to submit new proposals.

New Proposals

“It would appear that its latest effort to offer a remedy to antitrust concerns laid out last year by [EU] Commissioner Joaquin Almunia came at the eleventh hour,” reported The Register.

“Just yesterday, it was reported that Almunia had expressed scepticism about Google hitting that deadline,” according to the story. “On Wednesday, the commissioner jabbed: ‘Today is the 30th and tomorrow is the 31st, so I can imagine the proposals are flying in.'”

googlelawThe EU investigation centres on what they regard as Google’s dominant position in search.

In July 2012, Google executives sent a list of initial concessions to address the potential antitrust concerns. At that time, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt sent a letter to the EU’s Almunia, outlining steps the massive Web company would be willing to take to resolve the EU’s concerns, including claims that it favours its own search results over others.

Almunia had given Google officials that opportunity to address that issue and other concerns, including the use of material from other search engines in its results and its dominance in Web advertising, all of which investigators said put competitors at an unfair advantage.

Since that time, Almunia again spoke to Google’s Schmidt and asked for more clarification of Google’s proposals from early July.

Google officials are under investigation in Europe, the United States and elsewhere regarding its search engine, which holds more than 60 percent of the search market, with Microsoft’s Bing being a distant second. Competitors have claimed that Google works its search algorithms to favour its own products and results over those of others, giving it an unfair advantage in search and Web advertising.

A guilty verdict on such charges could mean a fine of up to 10 percent of Google’s annual revenue, which based on its 2011 annual results, would amount to about $4 billion (£2.5bn).

American Settlement

Google’s legal situation in Europe continues even as a similar antitrust probe in the United States was resolved in Google’s favour earlier this month.

Instead of an antitrust prosecution here, Google entered into a voluntary agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to change some of its business practices to resolve the complaints of some competitors about Google’s practices.

In the FTC case, Google won a huge battle as the commission voted to close its longtime investigation into allegations that Google has been manipulating its search algorithms to favour Google’s results over competitors. Instead, the FTC found that there was not enough evidence to prove such allegations.

Both decisions were announced 3 January in an FTC conference call that capped a 19-month investigation into Google’s search practices and patent portfolios in the smartphone, tablet and gaming device markets.

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