EU gives Google 'weeks' to satisfy competition concerns (Update)

May 21, 2012
European Union anti-trust chiefs say they had asked Google to come up with "remedies" to satisfy Brussels concerns the Internet search king has abused its dominant market position.

European Union anti-trust chiefs asked Google Monday to quickly offer "remedies" to satisfy Brussels' concerns the Internet search king has abused its dominant market position -- or else face heavy penalties.

"If Google comes up with remedies" within "a matter of weeks," Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told a news conference, the EU will negotiate "instead of having to pursue proceedings and fines."

Almunia said he had written to Google's Eric Schmidt with this timetable for action after an 18-month probe, and hinted that the case could be closed early if Google made the right noises by way of reply.

The alternative would be legal action that, depending on the severity and duration of infractions claimed, could result in fines worth up to 10 percent of Google's turnover -- meaning record EU penalties.

Google's Brussels-based spokesman Al Verney indicated that the company would resist some of the EU's demands.

"We've only just started to look through the Commission's arguments," he said.

"We disagree with the conclusions but we're happy to discuss any concerns they might have.

"Competition on the web has increased dramatically in the last two years since the Commission started looking at this and the competitive pressures Google faces are tremendous.

"Innovation online has never been greater," he emphasised.

The European Commission launched its antitrust investigation in November 2010, looking into allegations that Google had abused a dominant market position following complaints from rivals.

Microsoft-owned Internet portal Ciao was an early complainant, with a total of 14 plaintiffs now attached to the case.

Almunia said the probe had identified areas of significant concern in Brussels, notably: "preferential treatment" in the hierarchical presentation of search results; doubts over Google's full respect of copyrights; and "restrictions" written into advertising contracts and the "portability" of advertising across different Internet platforms.

"Should this process fail to deliver a satisfactory set of remedies, the on-going formal proceedings will of course continue," Almunia said, with a possible next legal step being a formal statement of objections.

Almunia said remedies suggested would have to be "market-tested" before legal proceedings could close, and added that other aspects of Google's business models remain subject to unrelated probes -- referring to complaints by online travel retailers like Expedia and issues surrounding Google's mobile operating platform Android.

The EU spent a decade fighting with Microsoft in a series of related cases, and appeared to be signalling that it was minded to reach a quicker negotiated outcome in this case.

Not least with technology analysts warning that the pace of technological change within the IT sphere makes lengthy pursuits even more cumbersome.

Explore further: EU looking carefully at Google allegations

Related Stories

EU looking carefully at Google allegations

July 7, 2010

(AP) -- The European Union's antitrust chief said Wednesday he is looking "very carefully" at allegations that Google Inc. unfairly demotes rivals' sites in search results.

New EU antitrust complaint against Google

February 22, 2011

(AP) -- A French creator of specialized search engines on Tuesday filed a new complaint with the European Union about alleged anticompetitive behavior by Google Inc., a reminder of the regulatory hurdles the online search ...

France says Google in 'dominant' position

December 14, 2010

France's competition authority said Tuesday that Google occupies a strongly dominant position in the online advertising market linked to Internet searches and that it possibly violated competition law.

Italy antitrust closes probe into Google

January 17, 2011

Italy's antitrust authority on Monday closed a probe into Google for alleged abuse of its market position, saying it accepted pledges made by the search engine to provide greater transparency.

Recommended for you

Scientists write 'traps' for light with tiny ink droplets

October 23, 2017

A microscopic 'pen' that is able to write structures small enough to trap and harness light using a commercially available printing technique could be used for sensing, biotechnology, lasers, and studying the interaction ...

When words, structured data are placed on single canvas

October 22, 2017

If "ugh" is your favorite word to describe entering, amending and correcting data on the rows and columns on spreadsheets you are not alone. Coda, a new name in the document business, feels it's time for a change. This is ...

Enhancing solar power with diatoms

October 20, 2017

Diatoms, a kind of algae that reproduces prodigiously, have been called "the jewels of the sea" for their ability to manipulate light. Now, researchers hope to harness that property to boost solar technology.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.