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EC competition authorities delay Google decision

Warwick Ashford

Google could still face a multi-billion euro fine as European competition authorities debate if the company has gone far enough to ease concerns about abuse of its dominant market position.

Microsoft and smaller rivals in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the US made complaints to competition authorities in Europe and the US about Google. The complaints claimed Google was manipulating search results to promote its own business interests at the expense of competitors

In July 2012, Google was forced to submit a revised set of proposals to the EU to address the concerns of Europe’s competition authorities.

European Commission (EC) competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia asked Google to clarify some of the proposals submitted at the beginning of July 2012.

In May 2012, Joaquin Almunia set a July deadline for Google to respond to four areas of concern about it abusing its dominant position in its online search rankings.

The call for clarification suggested Google's first set of proposals did not go far enough to address those concerns.

Four months later, EC competition authorities are still weighing Google’s revised set of proposals to decide whether they go far enough to address concerns or if more is required.

In June, the firm's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, said Google disagreed the firm had done anything to breach EU antitrust law.

Eric Schmidt now says regulators have enough information to decide whether to act. European and US regulators should either sue Google or drop their cases, according to The Guardian.

If the regulators find Google breached the rules, it could face a fine of up to €2.9bn or 10% of its 2011 revenues.

In the US, Google could be forced to yield to government regulation over the ordering of its search results.

A Brussels meeting on 3 December 2012 between Almunia and Jonathan Leibowitz, the chairman of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), is believed to have centred on the best approach to their respective cases against Google.

The EC and FTC are expected to decide what to do independently over the question by the end of the year, but no formal timetable has been announced.


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