September 9, 2013 - 15:24 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Google has offered further concessions aimed at ending a three-year investigation into complaints it was blocking competitors and to avert a possible $5 billion fine, the European Commission said on Monday, Sept 9, according to Reuters.
The new proposal comes two months after the Commission, which is the European Union's antitrust regulator, asked the world's most popular search engine for more measures to sooth concerns that it was blocking competitors, including Microsoft, in web search results.
"The Commission received a proposal from Google and is assessing it," EU Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said. He did not provide details nor say if rivals would be given a chance to assess the concessions.
"Our proposal to the European Commission addresses their four areas of concern. We continue to work with the Commission to settle this case," Google spokesman Al Verney said.
“We received new proposals from Google in the previous week,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Cernobbio, Italy. “If we are satisfied with the new proposals, we can advance toward an agreed solution in the coming months.”
Google’s previous offer to label its branded search services and show links to rival specialized search services was rejected by Almunia in July. Google rivals, including Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), have urged the EU to seek tougher concessions from the Mountain View, California-based company.
“Once we have completed our analysis, once we will check that these new proposals are able to eliminate our concerns, we will tell Google what to do,” Almunia said.
The commission will opt for a formal complaint, or statement of objections, against Google ‘if we consider that the new proposals are not able to limit our concerns.’ Still, that would take ‘too long,’ Almunia said.
“It’s a very difficult one, we are dealing with new factors, we are dealing with a sector of activity that is moving very, very fast,” he said in the interview.
Lobbying group FairSearch, whose members include Microsoft and other complainants such as online travel agency Expedia, British price comparison site Foundem and France's Twenga, urged the Commission to seek feedback from rivals.
"Given the failure of Google to make a serious offer last time around, we believe it is necessary that customers and competitors of Google be consulted in a full, second market test," FairSearch lawyer Thomas Vinje said in a statement.
Google, which has a market share of over 80 percent in Europe's Internet search market according to research firm comScore, told the Commission in April it would mark out its services from rival products in internet search results.
It also proposed to provide links to at least three competing search engines and make it easier for advertisers to transfer their search advertising campaigns to rival platforms.
But rivals said Google's offer was inadequate and would only reinforce its dominance.
The Commission has said Google may have favored its own search services over those of rivals and copied travel and restaurant reviews from competing sites without permission.
The EU executive is also concerned the company may have put restrictions on advertisers and advertising to prevent them from moving their online campaigns to competing search engines.