Google is looking to end a three year EU investigation into its practices
According to reports, Google is finally closing in on a settlement with EU regulators to end a three-year antitrust investigation into whether the company abused its dominant market position.
The third and latest set of concessions submitted by the search engine giant have apparently been approved on first pass by regulators from the 28 member states, an unnamed senior EU official told Reuters, saying Google and the Regulatory Commission are expected to reach agreement in the next few days, or in a couple of weeks at the latest.
A Commission spokesman declined to comment on whether or not a deal was close. “We are at a critical moment in the investigation,” he said. Reaching a successful settlement would see Google avoiding a fine of up to $5 billion, or 10 percent of its revenue in 2012.
Google has been negotiating with the European authorities since November 2010, who accused it of using its dominance in online search to favour its own products and harm business interests of competitors by taking material such as user reviews from their websites without permission. The regulators, headed by the European Commissioner responsible for competition Joaquin Almunia, have been trying to ensure Google is clearer on how it treats rivals and how it uses content from other providers in future.
The EU official said Google’s latest proposal was “much better”, as it now included commitments from the company on how it will use content from other providers in future.
Previous concessions submitted by Google included a promise to let rivals display their logos and web links in a prominent box, the ability for content providers to decide what material Google can use for its own services, and providing an easier way for advertisers to move their campaigns to rival search engines such as Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Bing. However these suggestions were rejected by Mr Almunia in December as not going far enough, meaning a third round of revisions was needed.
The Commission now needs to ensure it holds Google to its word, as it did not ask for feedback from any of the company’s 125 rivals before approving the latest concessions.
“We don’t comment on rumours and speculation,” a Google spokesman said in a statement.
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