There’s still time to avoid multi-billion fine, says Joaquin Almunia
The company has been negotiating with the European authorities since November 2010, accused it of using its dominance in online search to harm business interests of competing search engines and search advertisers. It has already missed several deadlines.
If an agreement isn’t reached by spring, Google could be fined up to ten percent of its worldwide revenues – or $5 billion (£3m) in 2013.
Tough to please
Google currently accounts for 90 percent of all online searches in Europe and although it is not illegal to hold such a monopoly, it is forbidden to abuse it. The EC argues that Google favours links to its own vertical searches over those offered by its competitors and blatantly copies content from rivals, for example hotel and restaurant reviews.
“We’ve made significant changes to address the European Commission’s concerns, greatly increasing the visibility of rival services and addressing other specific issues,” said a Google spokesman about the new offer. The draft included proposals to make competitor content more prominent, ease migration to other advertising platforms and lower prices on sponsored searches.
But on Friday, Joaquin Almunia, European Commissioner responsible for competition, said that the latest offer lacked improvements in vertical searches – an area of special interest. He added that the company had “little time left” to remedy the situation and the Commission was hoping to close this case in spring, reports Reuters.
Google’s previous attempt to please the EC failed in April. According to an anonymous source quoted by the New York Times, back then Google offered to clearly label its search results, and in some cases even show links from rival search engines. However, the offer was rejected by a group of 125 competing businesses, including Microsoft.
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