Menlo Park, CA – Global Internet mega-giant Google and the European Commission have agreed on how to settle complaints charging the US company with squeezing competitors in the EU’s web search market, and avoiding legal action and billions in fines.
The Commission (EC), which has been investigating California-based Google since 2010, said the company “has now accepted to guarantee” that when it displays its own specialized search services, it will also display those of three rivals in the same way to users.
“This is meant to resolve one of the key complaints by competitors, including US rival Microsoft, that Google displayed its own services more prominently, putting them at a serious disadvantage,” the EC said in a statement.
“We will be making significant changes to the way Google operates in Europe,” said Google spokesman Kent Walker. “We have been working with the European Commission to address issues they raised and look forward to resolving this matter.”
Rival companies will be invited to comment on the proposal before the Commission takes a decision on whether to make it legally binding on Google.
If found at fault in an EU anti-trust probe, a company risks a fine equal to up to 10 percent of annual sales – in Google’s case, nearly $60 billion last year.
Google’s remedy “provides users with real choice between competing services presented in a comparable way; it is then up to them to choose the best alternative,” said EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.
The EC will name an independent trustee to ensure Google sticks to its commitments in the five-year accord, which is designed to allow for technological change and innovation, Almunia added.
The EU and Google exchanged a series of proposals last year in the case but each time they were found wanting.
Almunia warned Google in December that its proposals were “not acceptable” and that the time would soon come to think of penalties against the company if it did not improve them.
Google accounts for about 70 percent of the search engine traffic in the US and 90 percent in Europe. In January 2013, US authorities absolved Google of anti-competition practices in a similar case.