Google Given Weeks to Resolve EU Antitrust Probe

Published on May 21, 2012
by John Paczkowski

The European Commission said Monday that an investigation has determined that Google may have abused its dominance in the search market and offered the company a chance to settle the allegations and avoid formal charges.

In a letter to Google chairman Eric Schmidt, European competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia outlined four specific antitrust concerns identified during the EC investigation.

The first: Google may be unfairly exploiting its market position by giving preferential treatment to its own services in its search results. The second: The company may have copied material from rivals’ Web sites. The third and fourth relate to search advertising and allegations that Google requires sites “to obtain all or most of their requirements of search advertisements from Google, thus shutting out competing providers of search advertising intermediation services.”

These are just preliminary conclusions, but because Google has been pushing for a settlement, Almunia is offering the company a chance to resolve them before the EC pushes ahead with what would inevitably be a protracted and unpleasant probe.

“I offer Google the possibility to come up in a matter of weeks with remedies,” Almunia said. “If Google comes up with an outline of remedies which are capable of addressing our concerns, I will instruct my staff to initiate the discussions in order to finalize a remedies package.”

Reached for comment, a Google spokesperson said the company has “only just started to look through the commission’s arguments.”

“We disagree with the conclusions, but we’re happy to discuss any concerns they might have,” the spokesperson said. “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.”

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