Google has been given an ultimatum of one month by the European Union to make detailed proposals on how it is planning to allay antitrust concerns
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The EU's antitrust chief, Joaquín Almunia, took a meeting with Google chairman Eric Schmidt on Tuesday as an opportunity to serve the Internet giant a one-month notice on submitting detailed proposals on how it intends to address serious antitrust concerns raised by the European Commission and a growing list of complainants.
Google, subject of lengthy and detailed antitrust investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, has been found by the EU regulator to be abusing its dominance in search in order to gain a competitive advantage for its own vertical services, such as news, shopping and mapping - thus harming its competitors in those verticals.
The EU announcement comes after the U.S. and EU regulators discussed details of their independent antitrust probes into Google during a meeting earlier this month.
The EU had highlighted four areas of concern of anti-competitive behaviour harming other businesses as well as consumers. This also includes the way in which the Internet giant gives its own services preferential treatment on its search results pages, relegating competitive offerings in the process.
Almunia has stated that he would favour a quick resolution by Google proposing satisfactory remedies which effectively resolve all those concerns - allowing Google to reach settlement without the need for lengthy court proceedings. The latter could cost the Internet giant up to 10% of its global revenues in fines, amounting to up to $4 billion.
"Since our preliminary talks with Google started in July, we have substantially reduced our differences," Almunia said in a statement.
"On the basis of the progress made, I now expect Google to come forward with a detailed commitment text in January 2013."
Almunia said he would seek feedback from rivals and users once he has received Google's proposal.
Google commented on the developments by reiterating its consistent statement: "We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission and are happy to answer any questions they may have," a spokesperson said.
Note to readers:
So-called "penalties" which are used by search engines to relegate websites to obscure, less accessible areas of search results are often applied without notification or explanation. These measures typically have a crippling impact on legitimate online businesses. Our "Have I been penalized..?" campaign demands greater transparency surrounding search penalties.
Image: Google chairman Eric Schmidt
credit: Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0