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EC reveals ‘tough negotiations’ required in Google search concessions deal

07 Feb 2014
Joaquin Almunia is vice president of the EC

Google and the European Commission (EC) went through “tough negotiations” before the company finally delivered concessions that were acceptable, said its vice president of competition Joaquín Almunia.

Speaking at an event in London on Friday, the EC chief shed more light on how it decided the latest search concessions for Google, which were unveiled on Wednesday. The EC has rejected the firm’s proposals twice before.

“At the third round I told Google, ‘you have a month, this is the last opportunity'. We could not keep going around in three to five months of market tests and then another new around, so I said ‘enough is enough’,” he said.

Almunia said some of the difficulties came due to the fast-moving nature of the tech market. “The way you receive services from search engines – any search engine – can change in one month. You may receive different results depending on your IP or location,” he said.

“Remedies valid last year may not be valid today, and the remedies [offered in the past] were not enough as we wanted future-proofing, because we know how fast things evolve.”

Almunia also questioned the criticisms the commitments have raised from firms such as Microsoft, which has itself faced antitrust actions.

"Some voices involved in previous article nine decisions [the law that governs anti-trust procedures] now appear as if a commitment decision is not an antitrust decision," he said, before clarifying he was referring to Microsoft.

Almunia also cited Microsoft's failure to abide by its commitments and the subsequent £485m fine it received, as a warning to Google it takes the legal obligations placed on firms very seriously.

“If these commitments are breached we would fine them, as we did with Microsoft. We reached a commitment with them in 2009. Afterwards we found that they had not implemented some aspects properly in a breach of the commitments so we fined Microsoft,” he said.

Google is still facing another major antitrust case in Europe over its Android operating system. Rivals have accused Google of abusing its dominant position by promoting its own services on the platform at the expense of others.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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