Google avoids fine with EU antitrust deal

Wed Feb 5, 2014 10:38am EST
 
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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google agreed to make concessions on how it displays competitors' links on its website on Wednesday, in a deal with the European Union regulator that ended a three-year antitrust probe and avoided a fine.

The agreement means the world's dominant search engine has avoided a process that could have lead to a fine of up to $5 billion, or 10 percent of its 2012 revenue. It must stick to the deal for the next five years.

However, Google may still face a second EU investigation, this time into its Android operating system for smartphones, with potentially bigger risks for the company.

Google has been the subject of a European Commission investigation into its internet search practices since November 2010, when more than a dozen complainants, including Microsoft, accused the company of promoting its own services at their expense. Its first two attempts to resolve the case failed.

Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Wednesday he would accept Google's latest concessions without consulting the complainants, prompting a furious response from critics.

"Without a third-party review, Almunia risks having the wool pulled over his eyes by Google," said David Wood at lobby group ICOMP that counts Microsoft and four other complainants among its members. Microsoft owns rival search engine Bing.

German online mapping services Euro-Cities said it would take its grievance to the courts.

"Today's announcement still leaves many questions open. We will continue to take legal action about Google's business practices in the German and, if necessary, EU courts," its chief executive Hans Biermann said.   Continued...

 
European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia speaks during a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels February 5, 2014. Google has offered further concessions to address regulatory concerns about its search technology, the European Commission said on Wednesday, effectively settling a three-year investigation and avoiding a fine of up to $5 billion. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir