Amid criticism from politicians and Google’s critics, EU antitrust chief Joaquín Almunia has essentially said that the current version of Google’s antitrust settlement proposal is a done deal. While he didn’t rule out changes definitively he seems to think complainants’ criticisms have been addressed.
The current proposal requires Google to give up considerable screen real estate and branding to vertical rivals.
Google’s opponents want another “market test” (time for criticism and study of the proposal’s potential impact). They also don’t want to pay Google for placement in contexts where the company already charges for listings (e.g., Google Shopping). However the European Commission has already deemed this reasonable.
It remains to be seen what impact these branded “rival links” will have on traffic. My suspicion is that it will be limited. However the branding these sites get may be valuable.
The EU antitrust investigation began several years ago when Google competitors claimed that it was unfairly favoring its own vertical content over other organic search results. The current settlement proposal is the third from Google after the previous two were criticized as not going far enough.