European anti-trust case against Google likely to end after fresh proposals

plenary

The European Union’s long-running anti-trust case against Google, in which the search company was accused of using its dominant position in search to stifle competition, looks set to finally be resolved – though we may have to wait until Spring to learn the details.

Reuters reports that Google has made new proposals, which the EU suggests is likely to lead to a settlement.

Joaquin Almunia told lawmakers in the European Parliament he believed the new offer made it easier to see Google’s rivals when making an internet search.

“We have reached a key moment in this case,” Almunia said.

“Now with the significant improvements on the table I think we have the possibility to work again.

“If our investigation of this improved proposal is satisfactory then we will continue the commitments route and end up with a formal decision next spring,” he said, adding: “I think that the settlement route remains the best choice” …  Read more

Report: Google draws up antitrust settlement outline with EU to dodge legal battle

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.

Read more

EU competition commissioner says he’ll settle antitrust investigation with Google

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.

Read more

European regulators to decide late March on Google antitrust probe

European regulators are moving early on Google antitrust probe, telling Reuters that a decision on a formal complaint against Google for misuse of its market position will be reached in late March, much sooner than expected. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told the news gathering organization late on Tuesday:

I will receive comments from the case team towards the end of the first quarter. I do not expect anything sooner. Let us see.

Since November of last year, 10 complainants such as Microsoft, VfT, Foundem, Deal du Jour, 1plusV and the Spanish Association of Daily Newspaper Publishers have filed complaints with the Commission, accusing the search giant of misusing its dominance in search. Google’s problem with EU courts could result in a multi-billion dollar fine, as had been the case with EU antitrust probes into Microsoft and Intel in the past.
Read more

Eric Schmidt to meet European antitrust chief over accusations of search abuse

Google chairman Eric Schmidt is set to face the European competition commission this week to address potential antirust issues concerning their dominant position in the search business, according to a report from The Guardian. The meeting will be held by the commission’s antitrust chief, Joaquin Almunia, following initial talks held in January stemming from complaints by several search companies including Microsoft’s own Ciao.

Almunia is expected to present Google with a 400-page “statement of objections” that documents the commission’s research regarding “allegations that Google Inc has abused a dominant position in online search, in violation of European Union rules”.

The antitrust investigation started as far back as November 30, 2010, after claims from several search related companies including 1PlusV, Euro-Cities, and German organizations representing publishers filed complaints. The complaints themselves range from Google displaying there own services in search results to unfairly using content from publishers.

If Google is found guilty of abusing its dominant position in the market they could face fines up to 10% of the company’s annual turnover in Europe, or be forced to make changes to the way it runs its search business in the region. While some reported that during initial negotiations in January Almunia told Schmidt he would have a chance to offer up a solution, Almunia had this to say late last week about the upcoming meeting:
Read more