Google has formally submitted its antitrust settlement proposal to the EU. Wait, didn’t that happen weeks ago? Apparently, it did not.
While the parties have been talking for months (seems like years), Bloomberg reported today that Google had “formalized” its settlement proposal to avoid potential fines and other penalties. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia is now going to “market test” Google’s proposal.
What that means as a practical matter is that he will circulate the proposal among Google’s critics and rivals for feedback. No doubt, they will be dissatisfied because Google is unlikely to make dramatic changes that will address the question of “vertical search” or claims of “search bias” (Google “favoring” its own properties).
The EU appears to be leaning toward a “labeling” approach to address Google’s alleged promotion of its own search properties at the expense of others.
In a related story, it was also reported today that Internet mapping provider Streetmap had filed suit in London last month against Google. The lawsuit’s claims reportedly mirror the central allegations of anti-competitive behavior in the antitrust investigation. Once again, the theory is that Streetmap is harmed by “search bias” or Google’s promotion of Google Maps in search results.
However, given the generally mediocre quality of the user experience on Streetmap, it may not entirely be Google’s “cynical manipulation” of search results that’s harming the site.
Streetmap is the second private case filed making claims similar to those in the antitrust investigation. In an earlier action still pending, UK shopping search site Foundem also sued Google in the UK for “anti competitive conduct.”