According to a report in the Financial Times, Google and the EU have agreed in principle to the “outlines of a settlement” that will avoid a legal battle over antitrust claims against the company. The settlement reportedly also extends to mobile search, an issue that emerged late in the talks and threatened to disrupt a potential settlement.
The details of the settlement framework — and precisely what concessions Google is making — are not known or public right now. However that information will come out in the next days and weeks. Google will likely release its own statement.
In one form or another, the concessions need to address the four “concerns” that the EU previously laid out in a May letter to Google:
- Google’s “vertical” results: “In general search results, Google displays links to its own vertical search services differently than it does for links to competitors. We are concerned that this may result in preferential treatment compared to those of competing services, which may be hurt as a consequence.”
- Use of third party reviews content: “Google may be copying original material from the websites of its competitors such as user reviews and using that material on its own sites without their prior authorisation. In this way they are appropriating the benefits of the investments of competitors.”
- AdSense exclusivity: “The agreements [with publishers displaying Google ads] result in de facto exclusivity requiring them to obtain all or most of their requirements of search advertisements from Google, thus shutting out competing providers of search advertising intermediation services.”
- Portability of ad campaigns from AdWords: “We are concerned that Google imposes contractual restrictions on software developers which prevent them from offering tools that allow the seamless transfer of search advertising campaigns across AdWords and other platforms for search advertising.”
According to the FT report, “The breakthrough came after Google said it would in principle extend the remedies it had offered to make for PC-based search to cover mobile search services too.”
We’ve asked Google for a comment and will update this post if we receive one or if any new details come out.
Postscript: Google has not confirmed the settlement and provided only the following statement: “We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission.”
The FT report may be somewhat premature. We’ll see over the course of the next few days whether a formal announcement is made.