Google anti-trust foes see friend in new EU competition chief

Thu Apr 9, 2015 3:04pm EDT
 
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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - After waiting more than four years for Brussels to resolve his anti-trust complaint against Google while traffic to his website plunged by 80 percent, Michael Weber of German online mapping service Hot-Map.com held out little hope of success. Until now.

He says a meeting with the new competition chief of the European Commission has left him with newfound hope that Brussels will take action at last to curb behavior by the U.S. Internet giant, which he blames for hurting his business.

Danish politician Margrethe Vestager, who took over the EU competition portfolio in November, inherited an anti-trust complaint by more than a dozen companies against Google, left unresolved by her Spanish predecessor Joaquin Almunia.

Almunia launched an investigation in 2010 and initially concluded that Google may have hurt competitors by favoring its own products and services in search results and blocking advertisers from moving their campaigns to rival platforms.

Since then, Google has offered three settlement proposals to resolve the case. Most recently, just over a year ago, it offered to give competing products and services bigger visibility on its website, let content providers decide what material it can use for its own services and make it easier for advertisers to move their campaigns to rivals.

Almunia initially accepted that deal, only to reverse his decision six months later and demand more concessions, leaving the ultimate decision to his successor.

So far, Vestager has said nothing in public that would explicitly signal what course she is considering.

She has also indicated that she will not rush into a decision. Asked whether enforcement regulators should emphasize quick action in cases involving fast-moving technologies, Vestager told Reuters: "I don't think that speed should be the priority. We should be even handed and open minded in interpretation of the facts. Of course it is better to be fast than slow but it's even better to be just."   Continued...

 
People are silhouetted as they pose with laptops in front of a screen projected with a Google logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica October 29, 2014.   REUTERS/Dado Ruvic