Google submits proposals to resolve EU antitrust concerns

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Google submits proposals to resolve EU antitrust concerns

Warwick Ashford

Google has submitted several proposals in response to concerns by European competition authorities in an attempt to avoid punitive fines.

In May, competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia set a July deadline for Google to respond to four areas of concern about the company abusing its dominant position in its online search rankings.

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

Although Google announced that executive chairman Eric Schmidt has sent a letter to Almunia, the company has given no details of the proposals.

Microsoft-backed lobby group, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (Icomp), has welcomed the announcement, according to the Telegraph.

"It is essential that the proposed remedies receive vigorous scrutiny, not only by the European Commission but also by third parties, to ensure they provide full redress for the damage caused by Google’s behaviour and prevent its repetition," said David Wood, Icomp counsel. "Any failure to do so will likely have grave consequences for online competition, innovation and consumer choice."

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

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

Bruce Kilpatrick, head of the competition law team at Addleshaw Goddard, said the fact that the terms of Google's proposals remain private means third parties will have to wait until the market-testing stage before they can voice their opinions on Google’s response.

"The European General Court's decision to uphold the bulk of Microsoft’s [anti-trust] fine last week is a reminder that the stakes are high for both sides if a settlement cannot be reached," he said.

The European Commission will now review Google’s offer and decide whether to settle the case or send formal charges.

Almunia has warned that if 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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