EU offers Google a chance to avoid fines over four antitrust concerns

Google has just a few weeks to suggest remedies to the European Commission's concerns

Google has "a matter of weeks" to address four antitrust issues identified by European Union antitrust regulators. If Google addresses these issues the case can be solved by a so-called "commitment decision" instead of formal antitrust proceedings resulting in a fine, said Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy.

The Commission began an antitrust investigation of Google's activities in November 2010, and has now concluded that Google may be considered to have abused its market dominance in four areas, Almunia said in a statement on Monday.

First of all it displays links to its own vertical search services that focus on specific topics such as restaurants or news alongside the general search service. Those links are displayed differently than links from competitors who offer similar vertical search services, said Almunia.

"We are concerned that this may result in preferential treatment compared to those of competing services, which may be hurt as a consequence," he said.

The second concern is Google's practice of copying content such as user reviews from competitors to display that on their own site without authorisation. By doing this Google is appropriating the benefits of the investments competitors made, and this could reduce competitors' incentive to invest, Almunia said, citing possible impact on travel sites or sites that provide restaurant guides.

The third antitrust issue concerns agreements between Google and partners that use Google searches on their websites, where Google ads are displayed next to the search results.

"The agreements result in de facto exclusivity requiring them to obtain all or most of their requirements of search advertisements from Google, thus shutting out competing providers of search advertising intermediation services," Almunia said, adding that this will potentially affect advertising services purchased by online stores, magazines, broadcasters and others.

Besides these three objections Almunia said the regulators are also concerned about restrictions that Google puts on the portability of online AdWords search advertising campaigns to competitors' platforms. Almunia said that he was concerned that Google imposes contractual restrictions and by doing that prevents software developers from offering tools for the transfer of advertising campaigns.

Almunia said he wrote a letter to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to offer Google the possibility to "to come up in a matter of weeks with first proposals of remedies to address each of these points."

Google said in an email statement that it only just started to look through the arguments. "We disagree with the conclusions but we're happy to discuss any concerns they might have," Google said.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?