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Google another step closer to EC action over business practices

Warwick Ashford

Google is a step closer to punitive action by the European Commission after complainants rejected its latest set of proposals to allay concerns about its business practices.

European 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 complainants allege that Google promotes its own services in general search rankings.

The internet search firm submitted a fresh set of proposals in April, after last-minute proposals submitted in February did not go far enough to address EC concerns.

Google’s April proposals offered to label results to indicate where its own services appear in search results and suggested new legal obligations to show links to rival services next to its own.

But these proposals have been rejected by complainants, who want Google to guarantee it will not favour its own services at all, and that search rankings will be based only on relevance.

They want Google to hold all services, including its own, to the same standards, using the same crawling, indexing, ranking, display and penalty algorithms.

EC competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia must now decide whether to accept Google's suggestions, seek new concessions, or move to a statement of objections, according to the Guardian.

The last option would kick off a legal process to force Google to make changes to its business practices or face a fine of up to 10% of its global revenues if it fails to comply.

Based on the most recent figures from the company, that would mean of fine of up to $3bn.

An investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission into Google's position in the US market concluded in January that its search presentation did not harm consumer choice.

However, Almunia has indicated that Google will face a much tougher stance in Europe. It is not clear when the EC competition commissioner will decide how he intends to proceed on the matter.


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