European Commission weighs Google antitrust settlement
By Loek Essers
The European Commission has received Google’s proposal to settle an antitrust investigation into the search engine’s practices, a Commission spokesman said on Friday. But one industry organization said it has filed another antitrust complaint against Google with the Commission.
“We have received proposals by Google which we are now analyzing,” said Antoine Colombani, spokesman for the European Union’s Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, in an email. “This is all we can say for the moment,” Colombani added.
Google would only say: “We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission.”
Although neither party would confirm details of the proposal, media reports on Thursday said it is similar to what Google has already agreed to in a case with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The FTC settlement involved Google sharing more information through its advertising APIs (application programming interfaces) and agreeing not to scrape Web content from rivals. In contrast with the FTC deal, the European agreement won’t address patents and it will probably require better labeling in search, a report by All Things D said Thursday, citing unnamed sources.
Almunia set the end of January as a deadline for Google to file its proposal. Earlier this week it looked as though Google was set to miss this deadline, but on Friday morning a Commission official said the company managed to file the settlement proposal within the time limit.
The search engine has been under investigation by the Commission since November 2010, when competitors accused Google of favoring its own services by reducing the visibility of competing services. In total, 14 companies have complained about Google in the E.U., including the Dutch football website Elfvoetbal, Microsoft-owned German price comparison site Ciao and the French site Dealdujour.pro.
New complaint pending
The day before Google submitted its proposal to settle complaints it had abused its dominant market position, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (ICOMP) said it had filed a new complaint alleging the company had engaged in anticompetitive practices to reach that dominant position.
ICOMP’s members include Microsoft and Foundem, both involved in the first round of complaints, and a number of online mapping, photography and advertising companies, including Bottin Carto and Streetmap.co.uk. The Premier League, bringing together the U.K.’s top 20 soccer clubs, is also a member.
The group alleges that Google did not achieve its 90 percent share of the European markets for online search, search advertising and keyword advertising on technical merits, but rather by preventing its rivals from reaching customers and users through the creation of an illegal network of exclusive relationships with network providers, software developers and phone manufacturers.
Unless the Commission deals with these matters, any settlement will only be treating the symptoms, not curing the underlying disease, ICOMP said Wednesday.
The Commission couldn’t immediately comment on ICOMP’s complaint.
(With additional reporting by Peter Sayer in Paris and Jennifer Baker in Brussels.)
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to email@example.com