Google and the European Commission consented to the “outlines of a settlement” today, according to The Financial Times (via SearchEngineLand), which, if inked, would spare the search engine from official antitrust charges.
Europe’s premier competition watchdog has long accused the Mountain View, Calif.-based Company of abusing its dominance to suppress opponents in the market. Google previously said it would make company-wide changes to avoid a legal battle and expensive fines, and it seems the most recent outcome of those discussions is a new settlement draft of which the details are currently unknown. The rough deal reportedly also extends to a contentious matter that surfaced late in the talks—mobile search.
Joaquin Almunia, the European Union’s vice president of the European commission responsible for competition, sent a letter to Google Executive Chairperson Eric Schmidt in May. The letter detailed the 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.
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- Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer had some lovely words for Eric Schmidt (9to5google.com)
The investigation found four areas, or points, where Google’s practices “may be considered as abuses of dominance.” The four points included Google exhibiting links to its own vertical search services, Google duplicating 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.”
Almunia’s news briefing was the first inkling at a possible conclusion to the antitrust investigation that launched in November 2010 to decide whether Google used its search supremacy to control competition. The Financial Times claimed the development of a settlement finally manifested after “Google said it would in principle extend the remedies it had offered to make for PC-based search to cover mobile search services too.”
UPDATE: Google responded to 9to5Google’s request for a comment with the following statement:
”We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission.”