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Google offer to tweak search results mollifies EU antitrust officials

updated 09:54 am EDT, Tue October 1, 2013

Move may help avoid $5B fine

European Union antitrust officials have voiced satisfaction with Google's latest offer to modify its search results. The EU's Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, issued a statement suggesting the company has finally addressed all areas of concern, improving the list of concessions beyond its July offer that received "very negative" feedback and was subsequently dismissed by the agency.

"One of the most significant improvements relates to the vertical search concern, which was the point that received the strongest critical comments during the market test," Almunia says.

Many of Google's competitors had complained that links to their services, related to specialized content such as restaurants, were not displayed prominently. Others criticized Google for displaying too much content from their services, reducing the incentive for users to actually visit the rival site.

Google has offered to show the logo of rival sites next to the link, which is presented with dynamic text designed to better inform the visitor of the content. The company is also said to be open to utilizing an auction mechanism that will enable competitors to bid for specific queries, while the opt-out mechanism has been improved for third-party sites that don't want their original content displayed on Google's results.

The company has also reportedly backed off its contractual obligations that had effectively forced advertising publishers into exclusive agreements.

"We have reached a key moment in this case," Almunia adds. "Following the first market test, I had serious doubts whether it was possible to continue the route towards a Commitment decision. Now, with the significant improvements on the table, I think we have the possibility to work again and seek to find an effective solution based on a decision under Article 9 of the Antitrust Regulation."

Google was reportedly facing a steep fine for antitrust violations, facing a potential penalty of up to $5 billion.

by MacNN Staff



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