Will Google Cave to EU Pressure?

The European Union’s Commissioner for Competition, Joaquín Almunia, has mandated that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) change its business practices in the region or face antitrust charges for giving preferential treatment to its own services in search results.

Like the United States’ Federal Trade Commission, regulators in the EU want to prevent the technology company from diverting business from its competitors by distorting search results and customers’ choices. Google may have to make only small changes to its business practices in the United States, but in Europe, where it owns 90 percent of the search market, Almunia has called for much stronger measures.

“They are monetising this kind of business, the strong position they have in the general search market and this is not only a dominant position, I think – I fear – there is an abuse of this dominant position,” Almunia told the Financial Times

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Discussions between Google and regulators are now working through a pre-charge settlement. To even the search playing field, the EU’s antitrust enforcer suggested a labeling system that will alert searchers when results for Google’s own services, like maps or restaurant reviews, are given an artificially high ranking.

The company is not expected to take any restrictions with grace. According to FT, any changes to its search could upset chief executive Larry Page’s plan to transform the search engine from a platform that primarily returns links to other sites into a platform that can answer questions “with information plucked from Google’s own services.”

As the publication noted, if the company amends how search results are displayed, it will be the first time that Google submits to regulatory pressure on its most important business. However, the company has yet to submit a proposal to address Almunia’s concerns, and if the search giant does not outline a satisfactory approach, he will issue a formal charge.

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