A European Union commissioner chief just gave Google “a matter of weeks” to settle allegations of competition-restricting activity that could help the search engine escape hefty fines and formal charges.
Joaquin Almunia, the European Union’s vice president of the European commission responsible for competition, announced today that he sent a letter to Google’s chairperson Eric Schmidt. The letter detailed the findings of an antitrust investigation into Google’s search practices, and it offered the search engine a chance to remedy its “abuses” by settling.
“I have just sent a letter to Eric Schmidt setting out these four points. In this letter, I offer Google the possibility to come up in a matter of weeks with first proposals of remedies to address each of these points,” said Alumnia.
The investigation found four areas, or points, where Google’s practices “may be considered as abuses of dominance,” such as: Google exhibits links to its own vertical search services; Google duplicates content from competing vertical search services; competition-restriction agreements between Google and partners on websites where Google provides search ads; and, restrictions that Google sets to the portability of ad campaigns from AdWords to other competitors’ platforms.
“Google has repeatedly expressed to me its willingness to discuss any concerns that the Commission might have without having to engage in adversarial proceedings,” Almunia explained. “This is why today I’m giving Google an opportunity to offer remedies to address concerns that we have identified.”
Alumnia further said fast-moving markets would benefit from a speedy resolution of the earmarked points by restoring competition. Meanwhile, a Google spokesperson told CNET that the Mountain View, Calif.-based Company has “only just started to look through the Commission’s arguments,” and then added it disagreed with the organization’s conclusions.
“But we’re happy to discuss any concerns they might have. Competition on the Web has increased dramatically in the last 2 years since the Commission started looking at this and the competitive pressures Google faces are tremendous. Innovation online has never been greater,” the spokesperson added.
Almunia’s news briefing today is the first inkling at a possible conclusion to the antitrust investigation that launched in November 2010 to determine whether Google used its search supremacy to control competition in the marketplace.