updated 08:04 am EST, Wed February 5, 2014
Search results proposal acceptance ends three-year antitrust investigation
The European Commission has settled with Google over its antitrust allegations for anti-competitive behavior in search. The tentative agreement between the search company and the regulator will see Google display the search results from competing services, among other proposals for promoting other companies, in order to put the three-year antitrust investigation to an end.
Initial proposals to appease the concerns of its competitors were rejected, leading to a second set that also failed to gain traction. Towards the end of last year, antitrust officials declared the latest proposals failed to go far enough, with EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia claiming at the time the proposals were "not acceptable" enough to eliminate concerns, but still advised Google could still amend proposals in order to avoid a potential $5 billion fine.
In a statement concerning the latest attempt, Almunia advised "I believe that the new proposal obtained from Google after long and difficult talks can now address the Commission's concerns. Without preventing Google from improving its own services, it provides users with real choice between competing services presented in a comparable way; it is then up to them to choose the best alternative."
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia
The agreed proposals for specialized services, such as hotels and restaurants, will include a notice next to results promoting Google's own services, with the results themselves "graphically separated" from other search results. Specific searches will include prominent links to three rival services, with the links themselves required to be similar to those for Google.
An example of Google's proposals
Third party companies will be allowed to opt out of specialized search without it affecting the main search results, with news publishers able to have greater control over what specific content is included within Google News. Sites using Google's advertising system will no longer be required to just use Google for search advertisements on their sites, while advertisers will benefit from a lifting on restrictions for managing their marketing campaign or transferring it to a competing platform.
"Turning this proposal into a legally binding obligation for Google would ensure that competitive conditions are both restored quickly and maintained over the next years," advised Almunia.