Google and EC agree outlines of antitrust settlement

Google and the European Commission (EC) outline a settlement to end the investigation into Google's alleged abuse of dominant market position

Google and the European Commission have agreed the outlines of a settlement to end a two-year investigation into the internet firm's alleged abuse of its dominant position in the search market.

The news comes a week after Google submitted a revised set of proposals to address the concerns of Europe’s competition authorities.

These concerns related to claims that Google unfairly favoured its own services in search results; that the search giant was anti-competitive in its advertising agreements with other websites; that it attempted to prevent advertisers from moving their campaigns to rival search engines; and that it took content from rival sites without permission.

Last week, European competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia asked Google to clarify some elements of the proposals submitted at the beginning of July.

The details of the deal have not been finalised, but among the proposals are thought to be significant changes to the way Google ranks search results, according to the Telegraph.

The latest proposals are aimed at meeting EC demands for Google to offer concessions that cover all platforms, including computers, tablets and mobile devices, according to Reuters

Almunia has made the inclusion of mobile search services a key demand because of the growing popularity of smartphones, according to the Financial Times.

The EC has been reviewing Google’s revised offer, and is expected to decide in the next week whether to settle the case or send formal charges.

If a deal is reached, Google would escape formal antitrust charges and possible regulatory intervention over claims that it manipulates search results to benefit its own websites.

EC spokesman Antoine Colombani told Bloomberg that the EU had “reached a good degree of understanding on possible solutions” and that the two sides would continue discussions.

The EC competition authorities have been investigating Google since 2010, when several UK and French firms complained about Google ranking practices in 2010 and were later joined by Microsoft.

Almunia has warned that if a settlement is not reached, European competition authorities would issue a "statement of objections", the first step towards fines of up to 10% of Google's global revenues, which were $37.9bn in 2011.

If the settlement is agreed without charges being brought, however, then Google will not face a fine and is not likely to have to admit any wrongdoing.

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