Google reaches deal with EU competition authorities

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Google reaches deal with EU competition authorities

Warwick Ashford

Google has reportedly reached a deal with European Union (EU) competition authorities over concerns about its business practices.

The news comes after Google submitted a fresh set of proposals last week after 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

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 Google manipulates search results to favour its own business interests to the detriment of its rivals.

Google has for the first time agreed to legally binding changes to its search results and the EC has accepted Google’s proposed settlement, according to the New York Times.

The weekend report cited two people briefed on the agreement who spoke anonymously because the proposal was not yet public.

The sources said Google will not have to change the algorithm that produces its search results, but will label search results from its own properties in areas such as weather and news.

In areas where Google sells ads, like local business reviews, it will show links to at least three competitors. In areas in which all search results are paid ads, Google will auction links to rivals.

Google will also make it easier for small businesses to transport their ad campaigns to other search engines.

The changes are expected to be implemented only after complainants have had time to examine the proposals and consider whether they go far enough to address industry concerns.

The changes are likely to have the biggest effect on searches related to shopping, flights, hotels and other “vertical searches” where competitors have expressed concern about Google bias.

Unlike Google’s settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission reached in January, the agreement will be legally binding for five years and compliance will be overseen by a third party.

Online trade groups criticised the FTC for closing its investigation with only voluntary commitments from Google to make some minor changes to search advertising.

However, the EU agreement will not state that Google abused its dominant market position or require the company to pay any fine if it remains compliant with the agreement.


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