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Google Enters test Phase

Google Inc. (GOOG), operator of the world’s largest search engine, has reached a draft agreement with the European Commission over steps it will take to curb anti-competitive behavior, the Financial Times reported, citing several people familiar with the deal.

The Mountain View, California-based firm has agreed to revamp its results page to include prominent links to rival search engines. It will also make users aware when they are using the company’s own search services such as those for restaurants, travel and finance, the FT reported.

If the deal is approved, Google would escape a fine for antitrust abuses, drawing to a close a near three-year transatlantic probe into the company. The offer, which is binding for five years, now enters a so-called ’market test’ phase in which participants, including companies that have filed complaints against Google, are asked for feedback.

The Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, an alliance of 70 technology companies and trade associations known as Icomp, said the proposal may not go far enough.

“As has been publically stated by a number of complainants in this case, there is concern that Google’s settlement offer will fail to deliver,” Icomp said in an emailed statement from April 11. “The opportunity offered by robust market testing to ensure the delivery of effective and future-proof remedies must be grasped.”

Android Complaint

Last week FairSearch, a group representing Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Expedia Inc. (EXPE) and Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), filed an antitrust complaint against Google over its Android operating system, which FairSearch said was used in 70 percent of smartphones at the end of 2012. Google also dominates mobile search advertising with 96 percent of the market, Fairsearch said.

The U.S. ended an investigation into Google’s search business in January, saying there was no evidence that the company’s actions harmed consumers.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, said the Brussels-based regulator doesn’t comment on leaks.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, said April 11 the company “continues to work cooperatively with the European Commission.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Liam Vaughan in London at lvaughan6@bloomberg.net

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