Is Google Willing to Play Nice in Europe?
Like the United States’ Federal Trade Commission, regulators in the EU want to prevent Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) from diverting business from its competitors by distorting search results and customers’ choices. Back in December, the European Union’s Commissioner for Competition, Joaquín Almunia, told the company to submit a “detailed commitment text” by January 31 that would explain how to fix this problem.
Google just barely made the deadline. The company submitted a proposal on Thursday detailing what items it was willing to settle.
Search is Google’s most important business, and regulators in Europe have been concerned that the company has abused its dominant position by giving results from its own services, like maps or restaurant reviews, artificially high rankings. The Federal Trade Commission addressed its antitrust concerns at the beginning of this month, agreeing to a settlement that required Google to license patents and stop giving preferential treatment to its own services in search results.
Now that Google has submitted its proposal to the European Commission, the question is whether the EU’s executive body will exact tougher concessions than U.S. regulators. There will most likely be several differences. Sources told AllThingsD that this settlement will not address patents and include parameters for labeling its search results. However, just as in the FTC’s ruling, the technology company will not have to admit to any wrongdoing…
Almunia said in a press release issued in May of 2012 that the settlement agreement would be drafted in accordance with Article 9 of the EU Antitrust regulation, a different statute than the one applied to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC). This piece of legislation does not require substantial fines like older regulation did. In March 2004, Microsoft was ordered to pay 497 million euros ($678 million) for its anti-competitive practice of bundling its media player with the Windows operating system.
In the same press release, Almunia outlined four allegations against Google: 1) in displaying search results, the company listed links to its own vertical search services differently than those of rivals; 2) it copied content from competitors and used it in its own offerings; 3) it forced advertisers to be exclusive; and 4) it prevented software developers from offering tools to advertiser that would allow them to seamlessly transfer search advertising campaigns across platforms.
Both the EC and the FTC took two years to investigate the issue.
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