European Commission proposes settlement for Google over antitrust case

Regulators give search giant chance to settle over investigation into alleged abuse of search engine dominance.

European Commission

Brussels competition regulators have offered Google the opportunity to settle an investigation into whether the company abused it dominance of its search engine business.

EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a press conference that he was giving Google an opportunity to offer remedies to address concerns that we have identified". He added that he would be sending a letter to Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, outlining four specific areas that Google must rectify or face financial penalties.

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He said that the company had "some weeks" to propose remedies to the European Commission's issues. Should the Commission accept Google's proposals after a market test, it will end the 18-month investigation into its business practices, said Almunia.

"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 finalise a remedies package," said Almunia. "This would allow us to solve our concerns by means of a commitment decision, instead of having to pursue the formal proceedings with a statement of objections and to adopt a decision imposing fines and remedies."

The main concerns for the European Commission revolve around how the search engine company deals with search results and how it gives preference to its own products, how content from rivals is used and how advertising is handled on its main search website.

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He said in a press conference that "these fast moving markets would particularly benefit from a quick resolution of the competition issues identified."

Al Verney, head of Communications at Google Brussels said in a press statement that while the company disagrees with the conclusions of the Commission, it was "happy to discuss any concerns they might have."

The Commission has powers to fine companies up to 10 per cent of their global revenues should they be found guilty of breaching EU competition laws. The commission has fined Intel and Microsoft in the past, among others.

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