The European Union's competition chief has said negotiations with Google to settle an antitrust probe have "advanced," but talks are not yet concluded.
Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said he could could not anticipate the outcome of ongoing talks and added that they could not go on forever. However he also said that there was no precise deadline for their conclusion.
Google is accused of using its search service to direct users to its own services and reducing the visibility of competing websites and services. In November 2011 the Commission extended the case into a full investigation to determine whether Google search results are unfair to rivals.
French search engine eJustice.fr and the U.K.-based Foundem first lodged complaints in 2010. But 14 other companies have since followed their lead, including Microsoft-owned German price comparison site Ciao, Dutch football website Elfvoetbal, French companies Dealdujour.pro and Twenga, British online mapping company Streetmap and online travel sites Expedia and Tripadvisor. Microsoft itself joined the complaints in 2011.
According to reports, Google has proposed a settlement of the antitrust case that involves labeling its own services in search results.
Earlier this month U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz met with Almunia to discuss the search giant, which is also under investigation by the U.S. agency.
Google controls more than 90 percent of the search market in several European countries.