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EU to Decide on Future of Google Antitrust Probe Next Month

European Union regulators must decide next month on the future of their antitrust probe into Google Inc. (GOOG), the region’s competition commissioner said.

Joaquin Almunia said investigators still must define their objections and clarify concerns over the world’s largest search engine. Last year he said that the probe focused on whether the company is a gate keeper to the Internet that can influence users’ behavior.

“Next month I will have to decide how to continue this investigation,” Almunia said in an interview with Bloomberg HT television. “First we have to define our objections. We need to clarify” the concerns “after a year-and-a-half of complex investigation. And we will communicate these to Google and we’ll see what happens.”

Google, based in Mountain View, California, is under growing pressure from global antitrust agencies probing whether the company is thwarting competition in the market for Web searches. While Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and partner Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) have about a quarter of the U.S. Web-search market, Google has almost 95 percent of the traffic in Europe, Microsoft said in a blog post last year, citing data from regulators.

The EU is investigating claims Google discriminated against other services in its search results and stopped some websites from accepting rival ads. Microsoft and shopping-comparison site Foundem are among companies that asked for a review of Google’s actions.

Investigators should report to Almunia at the end of March or the beginning of April on the status of the “very difficult and complex investigation,” he said.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, said the company continues “to work closely and cooperatively with the European commission to explain how our business works.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Josh Bassett in Istanbul at jbassett2@bloomberg.net; Sibel Akbay in Istanbul at sakbay@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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