It was almost inevitable that Google would finally cave in and accept that it had to do something to placate the European Commission competition regulators.
The alternative was too damaging to even contemplate – huge fines and a significant body-blow to the search giant’s industry reputation. The question that troubled most businesses involved inwas how significant these concessions would be? Well, we’re a little bit nearer finding out the answer to that question now, as Google has proposed a package of concessions and put them before the regulators. It hopes these measures will be enough to take the sting out of the EU’s long-running investigation into its European search business.
The suggested changes to its business were made following talks with European Commission competition regulators, after a long-running investigation by Brussels which had been looking into Google’s search business following complaints from rivals. Earlier this year the US Federal Trade Commission ended its anti-trust investigation and won a pledge from Google to end some practices, such as scraping data from websites to help target adverts.
The European anti-trust action was initiated by Microsoft and other mapping firms and web retailers who complained that the way Google ran its search business made it almost impossible for them to compete on an equal footing. The Commission recently complained that the search giant had not responded to its demands for change, and had ignored the end-of-March deadline it had set. Throughout the protracted process Google had maintained that it was co-operating fully with the investigation, but there appeared to be little evidence to suggest that this was truly the case.
In a statement, Antoine Colombani, the Commission spokesman on competition policy, said it had completed its preliminary assessment a few weeks ago and had told Google of its concerns.
As a consequence Google has submitted a formal proposal to the Commission setting out what it intended to do to change the way it operated. No-one is absolutely certain what these changes are likely to be, but Google is believed to have offered to label its services to make it more obvious to people what they are using and to make it easier for people to use rival advertising services: or at least that is what the Reuters news agency is reporting. These ‘proposals’ will now be subjected to a “market test” to gauge the response of rivals and to see if the suggested remedies meet the Commission’s requirements.
Speaking in Washington, Joaquin Almunia, the EU competition commissioner, said any agreement reached with Google would be legally binding.