Google may have to revise proposals to EU competition authorities yet again

Google may have to revise its proposals yet again to allay European concerns about its business practices

Google may have to revise its proposals yet again to allay 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.

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.

They 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 the European Commission’s (EC) concerns over allegations the search firm abused its dominant market position in the region.

But these too appear to have fallen short of the mark, with competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia telling the European Parliament he is almost certain to ask for further improvements, according to the Telegraph.

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.

The complainants have called for Google to guarantee it will not favour its own services at all, and that rankings on Google’s general search engine should be based only on the relevance of web pages.

European regulators had initially given complainants until 26 May to provide feedback on the latest Google proposals, but later extended the deadline to 27 June.

If Google fails to come up with proposals that satisfy its rivals, the dispute will go to court, where the company could face fines of up to $3bn.

Almunia has also indicated that European regulators are still considering whether to investigate alleged monopoly abuse by Google through its Android smartphone operating system.

"We have received a formal complaint regarding some aspects of the Android ecosystem. We are working on it – we have not decided if we will open a formal investigation," he told MEPs.

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 Europe," said Almunia.

In January, Google reached a settlement agreement with US regulator the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Google's settlement with the FTC centred on advertising practices and did not require any changes to its core search business practices.

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said there was no evidence to support a claim that Google's prominent display of its own content on its general search page proved to the detriment of its rivals.

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