Technology

EU hints at settlement with Google over anti-trust

People's silhouettes in front of the Google logo
Image caption There are few details on what the concessions are

The European Commission has indicated that new concessions offered by Google could end its long-running anti-trust investigation against the search giant.

Few details about the concessions were released, but they are believed to include measures to make it easier for web users to see results from Google's rivals.

The company was accused by rivals in 2010 of squeezing out competition.

If found guilty, Google faces huge fines.

"We have reached a key moment in this case. Now with significant improvements on the table, I think we have the possibility to work again," competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia told the European Parliament.

Own logos

In April Google suggested a package of concessions, including an offer to label its own services and to make it easier for people to use rival advertising services.

But the deal was rejected by rivals, who said it did not go far enough.

In a statement on Tuesday, Google's general counsel Kent Walker said: "Given the feedback the European Commission received on our first proposal, they have insisted on further, significant changes to the way we display search results."

"We've made the difficult decision to agree to their requirements in the interests of reaching a settlement."

The deal would allow Google's competitors to display their own logos next to their services and take up more space on Google's result pages.

It would also allow websites greater control over what parts of their sites appear in Google's results.

Mr Almunia said the commission would now give Google's competitors a chance to look at its proposals.

FairSearch, the umbrella group that is lobbying against Google, said that it had yet to see the details of the deal.

Thomas Vinje, legal counsel for the group, said in a statement: "It is essential that Google applies the same rules to its own services as it does to others when it returns and displays search results."

Rejected deal

Google dominates search in Europe, accounting for 80% of the market.

EU regulators have been investigating Google's business practices since 2010, following complaints from more than a dozen companies, including Microsoft and price comparison site Foundem.

The commission's investigation centred on four areas:

  • the manner in which Google displays its own vertical search services compared with other, competing products
  • how Google copies content from other websites - such as restaurant reviews - to include within its own services
  • the exclusivity Google has to sell advertising around search terms people use
  • restrictions on advertisers from moving their online ad campaigns to rival search engines.

A decision on the case could be made next spring, Mr Almunia said.

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