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EC sets Google July deadline to answer competition concerns

Warwick Ashford

The European Commission (EC) has given Google until July to submit proposals to address antitrust allegations about it abusing its dominant position in its online search rankings, or face regulatory action.

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

In May, Almunia said he would give Google an opportunity to offer remedies to address the concerns that he outlined in a letter to Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt.

But Eric Schmidt said Google disagreed that the firm had done anything to breach EU antitrust law, at the company's Big Tent conference in Hertfordshire last month.

Schmidt said Google did not understand how the EC believes it has broken anti-trust laws and insisted the search giant had done nothing wrong.

In his letter to Google, Almunia identified four areas of concern:

  • 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 in its 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.

But Schmidt said this is still insufficient information for the company to respond.

Now Almunia has set Google a deadline of early July for the company to negotiate remedies to protect competition or face potentially heavy fines, according to the Telegraph.

If Google fails to respond, European regulators will issue a formal statement of objections in response to complaints that it abuses its dominant position to promote its own secondary services.

Almunia has also warned that, if negotiations and proposals to address the EC's concerns are unsatisfactory, formal proceedings will continue through the adoption of a statement of objections.

Once adopted, the EC could impose fines of up to 10% of Google global revenues, reported at $37.9bn in 2011.


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