Will Google Cave to EU’s Ultimatum?

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has a “matter of weeks” to resolve a probe and avoid possible fines over allegations it discriminates against rivals, the European Union’s antitrust authority warned.

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EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia asked Google Chairman Eric Schmidt for proposals to address concerns that it promotes its own search services while copying rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and that its agreements with websites and software developers stifle competition in advertising.

Almunia told reporters, “I am today giving Google an opportunity to offer remedies to address concerns we have already identified,” adding, “I hope that Google seizes this opportunity to swiftly resolve our concerns.”

Google disagrees with the commission’s conclusions, but is “happy to discuss any concerns they might have,” said Al Verney, a Brussels-based spokesman for the company, in an e-mailed statement.

Regulators have increasingly been using settlements to end antitrust disputes in the EU. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and four publishers recently offered to settle a case there. IBM (NYSE:IBM) last year settled a probe into conduct that may have hindered rival mainframe-software makers.

“Restoring competition swiftly to the benefit of users at an early stage is always preferable,” Almunia said. Google has “repeatedly expressed” its willingness to discuss concerns “without having to engage in adversarial proceedings.”

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), whose Bing search engine filed a complaint in the case, declined to comment on Almunia’s statement.

Almunia’s office will continue to investigate complains over Google’s Android operating system and the way the search engine deals with travel agencies.

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