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Google To Get EU “Watchdog” As Part Of Antitrust Settlement
The New York Times is reporting that as part of the anticipated antitrust settlement in Europe Google is likely to be subject to a “watchdog” overseer. This role is explained in a “96-page [job] description” according to the paper:
Among the details of the job: The title is monitoring trustee. And although the salary remains unknown, the taker will be paid by Google. In addition, the chosen candidate cannot have any other links to Google during the five-year term or for three more years after the job comes to an end. Google could hold the person liable for disclosing confidential information.
The person would apparently be paid by Google and be responsible for verifying Google’s compliance with any settlement terms. That office would also receive complaints from Google competitors about non-compliance or other competitive issues.
The specific settlement terms have yet to be finalized. It’s not entirely certain that a settlement will be reached, although that’s the likely outcome. Failure to reach a settlement with European regulators could potentially cost Google as much $5 billion in fines and penalties.
EU competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia has been seeking a second round of input after Google made additional settlement concessions earlier this year. The core of Google’s settlement proposal involves prominent placement of three “rival links” in Google’s search results, which is already happening in Google tests in Europe.
The following is a redacted screengrab from search results in the UK:
It remains to be seen how Google’s competitors and critics will respond to the modified, second settlement proposal. There was swift and vocal rejection of the initial proposal. That resulted in Almunia calling for more concessions from Google, which the company provided.
In the US the Federal Trade Commission closed its antitrust investigation against Google without any action on the vertical search or “search bias” question because it perceived that aspect of its potential case to be weak and probably unwinnable.
However the rules in Europe are different and EU regulators have more unilateral discretion than their US counterparts.