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Google has another go at allaying EU competition concerns

Warwick Ashford

Google has submitted a fresh set of proposals to address European concerns about its business practices and avoid punitive action, which could include a fine of up to 10% of the firm’s global turnover.

This implies that the last-minute proposals submitted in February did not go far enough to address the European Commission’s (EC) concerns over allegations the search firm abused its dominant market position in the region.

In the latest proposals, Google has offered to label results to indicate where its own services appear in search results, according to the Guardian.

EC competition authorities began investigating Google's business practices in 2010 after complaints by Microsoft and smaller rivals in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the US.

The companies allege that Google manipulates search results to favour its own business interests to the detriment of its rivals.

The proposals will now be considered by the complainants, who said Google's search manipulation practices “lay waste to entire classes of competitors” in a letter to EC competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia, the Guardian said.

Early in January, Almunia said Google would face a tougher stance on its business practices in Europe than it did in the US.

EC data shows that Google has a search market share of greater than 90% in Europe, compared with about 65% in the US.

"The way the US looks at abuse of dominant position is different from the European one," Almunia said.

Google is also facing action by privacy regulators across Europe if the company does not change the way it manages user data.

EU data authorities have been investigating Google’s data collection practices since last March, when the search firm started combining data from across its sites to better target advertising.

European regulators see this practice as "high risk" to users’ privacy and last October called for Google to amend its privacy policy in response to 12 recommendations within four months.

In February, France's privacy watchdog CNIL said Google had yet to respond with "precise and effective" responses to 12 recommendations.

In April, CNIL said no change had been seen. “It is now up to each national data protection authority to carry out further investigations according to the provisions of its national law transposing European legislation,” CNIL said in a statement.

Consequently, all the authorities composing the taskforce have launched actions on the basis of the provisions laid down in their respective national legislation, CNIL said.

CNIL also notified Google of the initiation of an inspection procedure and that it had set up an international administrative cooperation procedure with its counterparts in the taskforce.

Google has consistently denied that its privacy policy and business practices are in violation of EU law.


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