EU offers Google last chance in antitrust case

Mon May 21, 2012 3:55pm EDT
 

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's antitrust chief on Monday ratcheted up the pressure on Google, giving it a matter of weeks to settle an investigation into allegations of anti-competitive behavior and avoid formal charges and a possible fine.

Even if Google, the world's most popular search engine, offers concessions to resolve the issue, it will still be under the EU spotlight after fresh complaints about its Android mobile software, the top operating system for Internet-enabled smartphones.

The European Commission launched an investigation into Google in November 2010 after competitors, including Microsoft, accused the company of manipulating search results to promote its own advertising services while demoting those of rivals.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said regulators were as eager as Google to avoid lengthy proceedings due to rapid developments in the technology industry and that if remedies were offered by Google within the coming weeks, the antitrust investigation could be brought to a close.

"I believe that these fast-moving markets would particularly benefit from a quick resolution of the competition issues identified. Restoring competition swiftly to the benefit of users at an early stage is always better than lengthy proceedings," Almunia told a news briefing.

"Google has repeatedly expressed to me its willingness to discuss any concerns that the Commission might have without having to engage in adversarial proceedings. This is why today I'm giving Google an opportunity to offer remedies to address concerns that we have identified," he said.

Almunia said he had sent a letter to Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, with a deadline for a response.

"In this letter, I offer Google the possibility to come up in a matter of weeks with first proposals of remedies to address each of these points," he said.   Continued...

 
People walk past a logo next to the main entrance of the Google building in Zurich March 9, 2011. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann