New Concessions From Google Seek To Avoid EU Antitrust Penalties

google-eu-featuredAccording to Reuters the European Commission (EC) says Google has submitted a new settlement proposal with “further concessions” in its bid to end the antitrust inquiry against the company. If the parties fail to reach agreement the EC has the ability to fine Google a percentage of its global revenues.

That penalty could be as high as $5 billion potentially.

No details of the new proposal were provided by Reuters or the EC. The updated proposal will likely be revealed in short order.

The EC concluded its original antitrust investigation of Google with a report detailing “four areas of concern.” Google was compelled to address those issues in its settlement proposal. Here are the four concerns:

  1. Vertical search/”search bias” (Google “favoring” its own services vs. rivals)
  2. Use of third party content (e.g., reviews) as part of Google’s own services (e.g., Places)
  3. Advertising exclusivity with publishers
  4. Portability of ad campaigns to competing search engines

Essentially three of the four are already remedied or moot. It’s the first issue (“vertical search”) that is the most contentious and has been the subject of intense lobbying. Google’s proposed remedies to address the first issue included the following:

Although Google’s settlement proposal hasn’t been approved the company has apparently been testing out rival links in its UK local search results. The following is a screenshot from a Webmaster World discussion (via Search Engine Roundtable):

Google Rival Links Local SERP UK

Competitors immediately attacked Google’s initial “rival links” proposal, which had been negotiated with the EC, as inadequate. They argued, if enacted, it would do nothing to address Google’s alleged “abuse of market power.”

The intense lobbying of FairSearch.org and SearchNeutrality.org swayed the EC, which issued a statement in May asserting that additional Google concessions would be necessary to avoid fines and penalties. This new proposal theoretically offers those additional concessions.

Anti-Google lobbying groups have yet to see the company’s modified settlement proposal. However they’re seeking a second “market test.”

Reuters quotes FairSearch lawyer Thomas Vinje, who issued a statement in response to the news of the second proposal: “Given the failure of Google to make a serious offer last time around, we believe it is necessary that customers and competitors of Google be consulted in a full, second market test.”

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google | Google: Antitrust | Google: Business Issues | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Google: Outside US | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Matthew The-Issue Booth

    I really dont see the point – 118.com yell ect need to work on there brand like Google have and still do … How can you blame Google for being effective and on the ball and giving the client what they want for free.

  • Pierre Gardin

    I just tried out 118.com . The query was vegetarian restaurants in Paris, in French. Outdated interface, insane response times which causes the thing to be extremely slow, no pictures, no opening hours, no reviews (only ratings), and worst of all the restaurants are not vegetarian.

    It’s like Google Maps circa 2007. And I don’t want to go back to 2007.

  • joeyoungblood

    The EU might come back with item #5: Restricting keyword data

    one can hope at least.

  • fran farrell

    Competitors won’t get a second ‘market test’. The only reason for further concessions is that the EU asked Google “Is that the best you can engineer by Sept. 2013?”

    No other engineering organization has presented software for test by the public and competitors. Google’s responsiveness even gave the EU a chance to eliminate most of the remaining lack of testable perfection (9% out of the last 10%).

  • Durant Imboden

    Sounds like a remedy in search of a problem.

  • CaptainKevin

    What really stood out to me in this story is that you did not link to fairsearch.org, but yet did so for searchneutrality.org. Was this out of fear that Google would penalize you for linking to a site backed by Microsoft? Such fear is everywhere these days and underscores the problem with Google’s marketshare and impact on ecommerce.

  • http://www.seriouslyspain.com/ Seriously Spain

    I never use Google search, so it doesn’t impact me but I hope the EU nails them to the wall.

    I detest Google for many reasons, but I certainly won’t use their search now that they’re willingly handing over all user’s search information to the NSA and the US government. In fact, anyone that does and values their privacy is a fool, IMO,

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