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EC competition chief offers Google chance to settle anti-trust case

21 May 2012
Joaquin Almunia is EU competition commissioner

European anti-trust chiefs are offering Google a chance to end the 18-month investigation in to alleged monopoly abuses at the firm.

Competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia said that its initial investigations had identified four areas of concerns over Google's businesses practices.

But he added that rapidly changing industries, such as technology, benefited from having disputes resolved speedily. Therefore Google was being given “a matter of weeks” to come up with acceptable compromises.

“If Google comes up with an outline of remedies which are capable of addressing our concerns, I will instruct my staff to initiate the discussions in order to finalise a remedies package,” he said.

Google had been subject to complaints from 16 companies in Europe, including the likes of TripAdvisor and Opodo. They argued the search giant's results gave undue weight to its own vertical search tools.

During its 18-month investigation, the EC found that Google displayed links to its own vertical searches differently that it did for rival vertical searches, potentially giving preference to its own services.

The EC also expressed concern for the way Google copies content from competing vertical searches and uses it in its own searches.

The two other concerns raised by the EC were centred on Google's advertising policy, both in the way advertisements were being placed against search terms and the lack of portability of its AdWords platform.

“I hope that Google seizes this opportunity to swiftly resolve our concerns, for the benefit of competition and innovation in the sector,” said Almunia.

The EC has the power to fine firms as much as 10 per cent of their annual revenues, if they are found to have breached competition laws.

Google has not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

The search giant also faces a similar probe in the US.

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