Google moves closer to resolving EU investigation

Fri Feb 1, 2013 1:06pm EST
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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google Inc has offered to change some of its business practices to appease European competition authorities and avoid billions of dollars in fines.

The European Commission said on Friday it had received detailed proposals from the world's most popular search engine, which has been under investigation for two years following complaints from more than a dozen companies, including Microsoft, that Google has used its market power to block rivals.

If the Commission accepts the proposals under its settlement procedure, it would mean no fine and no finding of wrongdoing against Google.

Companies found to be in breach of EU rules can be fined as much as 10 percent of global turnover, which could mean up to $4 billion if there is no resolution in Google's case.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia declined to give details of the proposal but told Reuters: "We are analyzing it".

Google spokesman Al Verney said the group continues to work cooperatively with the commission.

Google's offer includes labeling its own services in search results to make them stand out from rival services and also imposing fewer restrictions on advertisers, according to people familiar with the matter, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

They said the proposed deal does not mention the way Google enforces its patents against competitors as the company has already agreed with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it would no longer seek sales bans when suing companies which infringe on key patents.   Continued...

An illustration picture shows a Google logo with two one Euro coins, taken in Munich January 15, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Dalder