The European Commission (EC) has accepted new search concessions from Google that could bring the firm’s long-running competition saga to a close.
Google will now display the services of three rivals whenever a search result also returns one of its specialised services, such as for flight information or products, as shown below.
It has also agreed to remove restrictions that stopped advertisers from running their campaigns on competing search advertising platforms.
Google will also allow content providers to stop their information appearing in Google's specialised search services, without fear of being penalised from normal search results.
The European Commission vice president for competition policy Joaquín Almunia said he was confident that the new concessions secured from Google would help ensure that competition in the market remains vibrant.
“Without preventing Google from improving its own services, it provides users with real choice between competing services presented in a comparable way; it is then up to them to choose the best alternative.”
“This way, both Google and its rivals will be able and encouraged to innovate and improve their offerings. Turning this proposal into a legally binding obligation for Google would ensure that competitive conditions are both restored quickly and maintained over the next years."
Firms that have complained about Google’s practices, such as Nokia and Microsoft under the FairSearch consortium, will now be given the chance to provide feedback on the concessions offered by Google. The EC will then make a final decision on whether they will become legally binding.
If this happens, the EC will appoint an independent-monitoring trustee to oversee the implementation of these measures, and they will be enforced across Europe for five years.
Kent Walker, general counsel at Google, said the firm hoped the matter was now set to be resolved with these concessions: "We will be making significant changes to the way Google operates in Europe. We have been working with the EC to address issues they raised and look forward to resolving this matter.”
FairSearch said it was not impressed with the latest offerings, and indicated it would make this feeling known to the EC, with the hope it would cause it to rethink its acceptance of the package from Google.
"FairSearch’s position is that given the broad impact of such a settlement on consumers, competitors, innovation and Europe’s digital economy, it is vital that the latest package of Google’s proposed commitments be subject to a broad a consultation of stakeholders. Sadly, this does not seem to be the case," it said.
"It was thanks to such market testing that the two previous series of Google proposed commitments were demonstrated to be fatally flawed as mechanisms to restore competition to search."
Last year the EC turned down concessions offered by Google, claiming the firm did not go far enough to meet its concerns, despite Google saying it did a "good job" in trying to address any competition worries.
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