EU to reject Google's latest efforts to avoid an antitrust fine

Google's proposal to settle an E.U. antitrust case is not good enough and there is little time left, says the European Commission

An image from an ICOMP-commissioned study showing how users interact with an alternative search results page proposed by Google as a way to settle an antitrust case brought against it by the European Commission. The image shows mouse clicks (indicated by mouse symbols) and the intensity of visual attention (indicated by red for maximum viewing time, yellow for medium, green for minimal) on the results page of a search for 'map London'.

An image from an ICOMP-commissioned study showing how users interact with an alternative search results page proposed by Google as a way to settle an antitrust case brought against it by the European Commission. The image shows mouse clicks (indicated by mouse symbols) and the intensity of visual attention (indicated by red for maximum viewing ...

The European Commission will reject Google's latest proposals aimed at settling a three-year antitrust dispute, the Commissioner in charge of the case said Friday.

"The latest proposals are not acceptable in the sense that they are not proposals that can eliminate our concerns regarding competition and in particular regarding the way Google's rivals in vertical search are being treated," Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Spanish radio station Radio Nacional de España.

The news comes following a second so-called 'market test' in which rivals and other interested parties were asked to review the search giant's proposals.

Google has been under investigation by the Commission since November 2010, after rivals accused the search giant of directing users to its own services by reducing the visibility of competing websites and services. It was also accused of content-scraping and imposing contractual restrictions that prevent advertisers from moving their online campaigns to rival search engines.

The company's latest settlement offer, submitted in October, proposes to present three rival links for each query. These will be clearly separated from Google's own services, which will also be clearly labelled. Where Google monetizes its services, the three rival links will be selected by auction, with reserve price of €0.03 per click. However users will be able to hide the rival results with a single click and none of the proposed remedies will be applicable to the website, only to its sites in other country-code top level domains such as for France or for the U.K.

Google spokesman Al Verney said the company had taken into account the Commission's concerns. "We've greatly increased the visibility of rival services," he said.

However according to an eye-tracking study commissioned by a group of Google's competitors (ICOMP) the proposed new search results page layout would benefit Google more than its rivals.

The study, conducted by The Institute of Communication and Media Research, examined where people look on the page of search results, how long they look at individual links, and where they click as a result. The search results pages used in the study were taken directly from Google's proposals in its second round of commitments.

"These new proposals give Google the power to further monetize its abusive behavior by forcing small and large competitors to pay Google for the right to feature in these 'rival links' listings. The most relevant search results will be replaced by preferential slots either reserved for Google itself, or sold to the highest bidder. We maintain that the only workable solution to restore effective online competition and to give consumers what they are expecting is for all services to be given equal treatment in terms of search ranking placement," said ICOMP Legal Counsel David Wood in a statement.

It seems Almunia has taken note. He said no sanctions will be taken at this stage, but warned Google that "there is little time left."

Almunia is attempting to resolve the case under a so-called Article 9 procedure, in which the company under investigation can present proposals to rectify the situation. If these proposals are accepted by the Commission, they become legally binding. But if a solution isn't found, the Commission could fine the company up to 10 percent of its annual global revenue.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags antitrustGoogleeuropean commissionlegalinternetsearch engines

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?