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EC calls on Google to address competition concerns

Warwick Ashford

The European Commission (EC) is pressurising Google to address concerns over the search giant abusing its dominant position.

An investigation into complaints about Google, led by Europe's competition head Jaoquin Almunia, has identified four areas of concern (see panel).

Jaoquin Almunia said Google has repeatedly expressed its willingness to discuss any concerns the EC might have, without having to engage in adversarial proceedings.

"This is why I am today giving Google an opportunity to offer remedies to address the concerns we have already identified," Almunia said in a statement.

In a letter to Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, Almunia said he had set out the EC's concerns and offered Google the opportunity to come up with proposals to address them, "in a matter of weeks".

"If Google comes up with an outline of remedies which are capable of addressing our concerns, I will instruct my staff to initiate the discussions in order to finalise a remedies package," Almunia said.

This approach would solve EC concerns by means of a commitment decision, instead of having to pursue formal proceedings to adopt a decision and impose fines and remedies.

The European Commission's four areas of concern over Google

  • The manner in which Google displays its own vertical search services differently from other, competing products;
  • How Google copies content from other websites - such as restaurant reviews - to include within their own services;
  • The exclusivity Google has to sell advertising around search terms people use;
  • Restrictions surrounding portability of advertising content which prevents "seamless transfer" to other non-Google platforms.

"I hope that Google seizes this opportunity to swiftly resolve our concerns, for the benefit of competition and innovation in the sector," said Almunia.

A Google spokesman said the company disagreed with the conclusions, but would work to resolve the matter, according to the BBC.

"We're happy to discuss any concerns they might have," Google spokesman Al Verney said.

"Competition on the web has increased dramatically in the last two years since the commission started looking at this and the competitive pressures Google faces are tremendous," Verney said.

The US Federal Trade Commission is similarly investigating Google over claims it is abusing its market position.

Addressing Almunia's concerns will not spell the end of Google's troubles in Europe, as the EC is also investigating Motorola Mobility, which Google is close to acquiring.

The EC is investigating Motorola Mobility over its use of patents that could embroil Google in a fresh battle over anti-competitive behaviour.

Apple and Microsoft have made complaints about Motorola Mobility, that it failed to license essential industry technologies on fair and reasonable terms.


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