EU Warns Of Google Antitrust Fine
Make your search engine fair or face the consequences, says EU competition commissioner
The EU competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia has warned Google that it will face increased pressure from EC to change its anti-competitive practices.
Speaking at Fordham University in New York on Thursday, Almunia reiterated his concerns that the company is using its dominance in online search to harm business interests of competing search engines and search advertisers.
Google antitrust concerns
Earlier this year, the European Union had given Google a July deadline to provide a proposal that would resolve the ongoing antitrust investigation into the search giant’s practices.
In a statement to media outlets on 2 July, Google spokesman Al Verney said that the company had “made a proposal to address the four areas the European Commission described as potential concerns.” The company’s chairman Eric Schmidt had been in personal contact with Almunia, and it seemed that both parties wanted to avoid lengthy legal proceedings.
Later in July, it emerged that Google agreed to add Android to the list of platforms on which it was meant to redesign the search algorithms.
Google currently accounts for 90 percent of all searches in Europe and although it is not illegal to hold a monopoly, it is forbidden to abuse it. The EC argues that Google displays links to its own vertical search services differently to its competitors and copies content from rivals, such as restaurant reviews.
According to Almunia, EC staff are currently engaged in a technical discussion with Google in order to assess the viability of its proposals. “If effective solutions were found quickly and tested successfully, competition could be restored at an early stage by means of a commitment decision,” said the competition commissioner.
“However, we are not there yet, and it must be clear that – in the absence of satisfactory proposals in the short term – I will be obliged to continue with our formal proceedings,” he added.
If Google’s suggestions don’t satisfy the EC, the company could be fined up to ten percent of its worldwide revenues – which for 2011 amounts to €2.9bn (£2.3bn), reports the Guardian.
Almunia has also confirmed that he takes the Microsoft browser “ballot screen” issue very seriously. In July, the EC obtained evidence that Microsoft had failed to enforce a legally binding agreement designed to offset its dominance in the browser market, caused by the bundling of Internet Explorer with almost every copy of Windows since 1995.
“I take compliance very seriously and I will make sure that we take the necessary decisions as a matter of priority,” said Almunia.
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