04-12-2013, 01:15 PM #1
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Google submits antitrust remedies to EU
The European Commission confirmed overnight that it has formally received a package of concessions from Google aimed at ending a two-year antitrust investigation.
The internet giant submitted detailed proposals at the end of January and in the last few weeks, the Commission completed its preliminary assessment formally setting out its concerns, said Competition spokesman Antoine Colombani.
“We are now preparing the launch of a market test to seek feedback from market players, including complainants, on these commitment proposals. We will take into account this market test in our analysis of Google’s proposals,” he said.
Google has been under investigation by the Commission since November 2010 after rivals accused the search giant of setting its algorithm to direct users to its own services by reducing the visibility of competing websites and services.
Complaints were first lodged by French search engine eJustice.fr and the UK-based Foundem. But 14 other companies have since followed their lead, including Microsoft-owned German price comparison site Ciao, online shopping platform Twenga, British online mapping company Streetmap and online travel sites Expedia and TripAdvisor.
Last year Google was reported to have proposed a settlement of the antitrust case that involves labelling its own services in search results. But complainants were unimpressed with these suggestions and last month 11 of them urged Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia to formally charge Google with breaking competition law.
“We are becoming increasingly concerned that effective and future-proof remedies might not emerge through settlement discussions alone. Google’s past behaviour suggests that it is unlikely to volunteer effective, future-proof remedies without being formally charged with infringement,” said the group in an open letter to Almunia.
According to reports, the proposed remedies submitted Thursday are similar to a settlement Google struck with the US Federal Trade Commission, and involve Google sharing more information through its advertising APIs (application programming interfaces) and agreeing not to scrape web content from rivals.
Google has not elaborated on its concessions and said it continues to work closely with the Commission. But now other companies must be consulted on the proposals and if the Commission decides they are not satisfactory, it can resume the normal antitrust proceedings and adopt a Statement of Objections. However, Almunia has always been keen to use settlement agreements to resolve this sort of dispute.
Google has more than 90 percent of the search market in several European countries.
04-12-2013 01:15 PM
04-15-2013, 02:52 PM #2
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EU, Google antitrust settlement could see prominent placement for competing products
European Union regulators have accepted a proposed solution from Google to end an antitrust probe questioning whether the search giant uses its dominant market position unfairly, but Google's competitors are reportedly unsatisfied with the deal.
The deal between Google and the European Commission would see Google clearly labeling search results from its own properties — such as Google Plus Local and Google News — and sometimes showing links from rival search engines, sources familiar with the negotiations told The New York Times. Google would not be required to alter the algorithm that produces its search results, and the changes likely would not show up on users' screens for at least a month.
The EU's antitrust investigation looked into whether Google was using its search dominance to tout its own services ahead of those of its competitors. Large Internet and software rival Microsoft was one of the primary complainants before the European Commission, but Microsoft was joined by smaller players, including British comparison shopping site Foundem and social review site Yelp.
Aside from its alleged favoring of its own offerings, the plaintiffs also charged that Google disadvantaged competitors by pulling material from other web sites for search results.
The agreement would require Google to label Google-owned properties in areas where it doesn't make money from search results. In areas where Google does make money off of ads, such as local business reviews, Google would have to show links to at least three competitors. In areas like shopping, Google would auction links to rivals.
The search company would also be required to allow competitor services the ability to block as much as 10 percent of their web content from displaying in Google search results. Google, then, would be unable to, for instance, display hours of operation from Yelp listings. Google would also have to make it easier for small businesses to move their ad campaigns to other search engines.
Responding to the news that a settlement may be near, representatives for the plaintiffs told Bloomberg that the deal appears to be insufficient as far as they're concerned.
"If what has been proposed is a labeling or a modified form of labeling, frankly that's a non-starter," a lawyer for an industry group including Microsoft told Bloomberg. "We haven't seen the proposals and the commission hasn't explained them to us. We're in the dark."
Wood's group wants any settlement to "set out non-discrimination principles and the means to deal with the restoration of effective competition, plus effective enforcement and compliance" in order for it to be acceptable. The settlement would also have to be global in order for Google's competitors to be satisfied.
The EU settlement is another chance for Google's rivals to extract concessions from the search giant. Another antitrust case in the United States closed earlier this year with the Federal Trade Commission concluding that Google had been more interested in improving its search results than in stifling competition.
Any agreement Google reaches with the European Commission would be legally binding for a period of five years, with a third party ensuring compliance. A violation of such an agreement could lead to a fine of as much as 10 percent of Google's global annual sales.
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