Google Told by EU to Offer Antitrust Settlement in Weeks

Google Inc. (GOOG) was told to make an offer by early next month to resolve a European Union antitrust probe and avoid a formal complaint over allegations the operator of the world’s largest search engine discriminates against rivals.

Google’s users and rivals “would greatly benefit from a quick resolution of the case” because it is better to restore competition swiftly in fast-moving markets, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said today in a speech at St. Gallen, Switzerland.

“By early July, I expect to receive from Google concrete signs of their willingness to explore” a settlement, Almunia said in the speech. If the proposals “turn out to be unsatisfactory, formal proceedings will continue through the adoption of a statement of objections.”

Google, based in Mountain View, California, is under growing pressure from global regulators probing whether the company is thwarting competition in the market for Web searches. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and antitrust agencies in Argentina and South Korea are also scrutinizing the company.

Almunia last month asked Chairman Eric Schmidt to address concerns Google promotes its own specialist search services, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and that its agreements with websites and software developers stifle competition in the advertising industry.

Google is “engaging constructively with the commission,” said Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels. The company said last month that, while it disagreed with the EU’s conclusions, it was prepared to discuss any concerns.

In 2010, regulators began investigating claims Google discriminated against other services in its search results and stopped some websites from accepting competitors’ ads. While Microsoft 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.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in St Gallen via awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Scinta at cscinta@bloomberg.net

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