Google to settle with European Commission

Google look to settle with the European Commission

This morning the EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia revealed that Google has submitted improved proposals to allay antitrust concerns, that included accusations of biased search results.

The European Union has been investigating Google over antitrust concerns regarding the internet giant's search practices for three years.

Complaints against Google have accused the search engine of copying content from rivals, shutting out competing providers and making it increasingly difficult for advertisers to port their campaigns to other services.

Google's compromise

In response to the EU's continued investigation into the allegations, Almunia said today that Google has made "significant improvements". Links from rival services have been made more visible, and have "a larger space of the Google search result page...dedicated to them" including space for rivals to display their logo next to links, and "a dynamic text associated to each rival link to better inform the user of its content."

Google has also responded to complaints against its auction mechanism which determines which links are displayed in search results. Almunia stated on the issue:

"The new proposal foresees an auction mechanism which includes the option to bid for each specific query, this is important to also ensure that smaller specialized search operators can be displayed."

He concluded his speech by stating that the EC will be working on the wording of the proposal with Google, who have been asked to provide data to show the impact of the proposal.

"We know the general positions of the complainants and other stakeholders. What we need now is to receive concrete technical elements on the effectiveness of the proposed package in order to conclude whether this new proposal is satisfactory from a competition point of view."

As a further step towards a compromise Google has agreed to an independent monitoring trustee who will assist the EC in determining that the key principles included in the proposal are being implemented.

Google and the EU

The search engine proposed a settlement with the EU over a year ago, in which Google agreed to change the way its own sites are listed against those of competitors. In July 2012 Almunia outlined four key ways in which Google had been acting in a biased manner that had a negative effect on rival companies.

Natalie Booth, head of search at theEword said: "Hopefully the antitrust investigation can come to an agreeable conclusion now that the two sides seem to have reached a compromise. Unfortunately we have already seen the consequences of an infringement of EC commitment when Microsoft were handed a $561m fine earlier this year; a fine of this size would have much more of an effect on Google than any imposed by the EC before now."