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September 10, 2014

EU to Google: No Deal

European Commission Re-Opens Long-Running Anti-Trust Probe

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Photo Credit: meneame comunicacions, sl via flickr

It is back to the drawing board for Google.

The search engine giant’s tentative settlement with the European Commission has fallen through after European Union regulators asked Google for more concessions to address concerns it is using its monopoly of the market to give its own products and services prominence over that of its competitors.

The announcement, made Tuesday by European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, puts the kibosh on the deal that was to bring an end to the four-year anti-trust investigation into Google’s search practices.

If Google is unable to satisfy the EU with its next round of concessions, the company could be slapped with a $5-billion fine.

The news of the EU’s rejection of Google’s submission does come as a bit of a surprise, however, because Almunia, in February, said the proposal obtained from Google “after long and difficult talks” addressed the Commission’s concerns.

The deciding factor in rejecting the concessions was the “very, very negative” feedback received from Google’s rivals, which includes the likes of Microsoft, Expedia, Oracle and Nokia.

Google competitors are saying the concessions did not go far enough and, in fact, would only serve to reinforce Google’s search supremacy.

“Some complainants introduced new arguments, new data, new considerations,” Almunia told Bloomberg TV in an interview. “We now need to analyze this and see if we can find solutions, Google can find solutions, to some of these concerns that we find justified.”

Google spokesman in Brussels Al Verney said the company will continue to work with EU regulators on the concerns that have been raised.

Under Google’s latest round of concessions — which only covered Europe and would be valid for five years — was the offer of equivalent display to specialized search services that compete with its own.

The chief change would have been the prominence of rivals in Google’s search results. Almunia said images connected to links of competitors would be larger and more easily seen. Google had also gotten rid of the ability to turn off rival links.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, began probing Google’s search methods in November of 2010 after receiving a number of complaints from companies that allege the technology firm rigs search results in its favor.

The Commission provided Google with a list of four concerns to address last March.

Google submitted four concessions the following month in an attempt to avoid being fined up to 10 percent of its global annual revenue by the EU, but its rivals complained, saying the concessions fell far short of what is needed to better level the playing field.

The European Commission agreed, suggesting Google try again. Google came back with a new round of concessions in October, which the Commission also rejected after seeking feedback from the search engine firm’s rivals


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.