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Google Could Face More Antitrust Probes, EU’s Almunia Says

Google Inc. may face further antitrust probes by the European Union, the bloc’s competition chief said, even as the owner of the world’s biggest search engine works to resolve an existing investigation.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the current investigation doesn’t cover areas such as applications for mobile phones. Regulators will review the “solutions that Google will present to us and hopefully we will reach a settlement” for the existing investigation, he said.

While “we have not opened any other investigation, I don’t exclude in future” that further probes will be started, Almunia told reporters in Brussels today.

Almunia asked Google in May to make an offer to settle concerns that it 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, 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.

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

Initial Offer

Regulators asked Google to extend an initial offer to modify its search engine to cover mobile applications for smartphones and tablet computers, two people familiar with the negotiations said last week.

In 2010, the EU’s antitrust agency began investigating claims Google discriminated against other services in its search results and stopped some websites from accepting competitors’ ads. While Microsoft Corp. and partner Yahoo! Inc. 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.

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