EU ups pressure on Google in anti-trust probe

GMT 02:40 2014 Wednesday ,10 September

Arab Today, arab today EU ups pressure on Google in anti-trust probe

Brussels - AFP

US Internet giant Google saw chances of a quick resolution to an anti-trust probe fade on Tuesday after EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia called for "new solutions" to address complaints from rivals.
Google and the Commission agreed a deal in February over charges that the world's largest search engine was squeezing out competitors in Europe, thereby avoiding potentially billions in fines against the company.
In that accord, Google agreed to give equal prominence to rival services in its search results after competitors -- including Microsoft and TripAdvisor -- argued the company has abused its dominant position in the European market, where it accounts for 90 percent of traffic.
At that time, Almunia said he had expected to wrap up the deal once the last competitor complaints were resolved and before the end of his mandate on October 31.
However since then, "some complainants introduced new arguments, new data, new considerations", Almunia told Bloomberg TV in an interview late Monday.
"We need to analyse this and to see if... Google can find solutions to some of these concerns that we consider justified," he said.
EU rules state that a company found at fault in an anti-trust probe can be fined up to 10 percent of its annual sales, in Google's case some $55.5 billion in 2013.
The deal's collapse is the third time Google and Brussels have failed to reach a negotiated truce since the Commission launched proceedings in 2010.
The failure would also mean that the matter would carry over to the next commission, to be headed by Jean-Claude Junker, and a new commissioner.
A spokesman for Google said on Tuesday the California-based company is continuing "to work with the European Commission to resolve the concerns they have raised."
Almunia has been under intense pressure in several European capitals to not cede ground to Google on several fronts, including on its search function but also content creation.
Publishers, notably in France and Germany, are critical of the Google News page which generates links to news content without paying for the copyright.
European lawmakers Ramon Tremosa and Andreas Schwab, who have fought hard to see the Commission's proposed deal with Google shelved, welcomed Almunia's "long awaited change of direction".
The MEPs said the decision "is necessary" as the proposed solution "does not solve the underlying problem of traffic diversion to solely the benefit of Google services."
They added that the "pressure would be maintained" on the incoming competition commissioner who is expected to be named later this week.
In its February offer, Google agreed to provide rivals with prominent space in search results that would be auctioned to the highest bidder.
But critics have argued that the Commission's original complaint said that paid-for placement could not be substitute for normal search results.

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