The world's dominant search engine has been the focus of a
Commission investigation since November 2010, when more than a dozen
complainants across Europe accused the company of promoting its own
services at their expense.
Google has now made three attempts to resolve the case, with the
latest moves looking like they will be enough to settle it, although
there will still be a chance for Google's competitors to provide
"I believe that the new proposal obtained from Google after long and
difficult talks can now address the Commission's concerns," European
Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
The Commission said it would make a final decision after obtaining
feedback from Google's rivals. Google's offer only covers Europe and
would be valid for five years.
In a statement, Google said it hoped to draw a line under the case
"We will be making significant changes to the way Google operates in
Europe," said General Counsel Kent Walker. "We have been working
with the European Commission to address issues they raised and look
forward to resolving this matter."
Reuters reported on January 29 that the EU's competition authority
and Google were close to a deal to resolve the investigation.
Google's success in escaping possibly heavier sanctions mirrors a
similar outcome in the United States last year, where Google
received only a mild reprimand from the Federal Trade Commission.
Almunia, who has been in charge of antitrust issues at the European
Commission since 2009, has developed a track record of resolving
cases via settlements rather than fines.
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Google's ability to resolve competition issues in two major regions
without a fine stands in sharp contrast to rival Microsoft, whose
prickly relations with EU regulators landed it total fines of more
than 2.2 billion euros over the past decade.
Under its latest proposals, Google, which has a 75 percent share of
the European search market according to consultancy comScore, will
let three rivals display their logos and web links in a prominent
box, and content providers will be able to decide what material
Google can use for its own services.
Google will also scrap restrictions that prevent advertisers from
moving their campaigns to rival platforms such as Yahoo!'s search
tool and Microsoft's Bing.
Despite the imminent deal, Google may still face a second EU probe,
this time into its Android operating system for smartphones, with
potentially bigger risks for the company.
Google gives away Android for free. The software, which is available
on three out of four smartphones sold worldwide, essentially helps
the company extend its core search business and boost its usage in
the mobile world.
Lobbying group FairSearch whose members include Microsoft and
Finnish Nokia, has accused Google of using Android to divert traffic
to its search engine. The Commission has yet to decide whether to
open an investigation.
(Additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco; editing
by Luke Baker)
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