Google Concessions Sought by EU to Rescue Antitrust Pact

European Union regulators are “trying to extract” more concessions from Google Inc. after hostility to plans to settle a four-year antitrust probe, according to the bloc’s competition chief.

The EU got “very, very negative” feedback to the proposed pact from companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Expedia Inc., that asked the EU to examine allegations that Google discriminates against rivals in search results, Joaquin Almunia said in a Bloomberg TV interview in Cernobbio, Italy on Sept. 6.

“Some complainants have introduced new arguments, new data, new considerations,” the EU antitrust commissioner said. “We now need to analyze this and see if we can find solutions, Google can find solutions, to some of these concerns that we find justified.”

Any changes to the deal would mark an about-face for Almunia who has defended the planned settlement in the face of criticism, including from fellow EU commissioners. Deutsche Telekom AG and French and German publishers have filed additional complaints about Google in recent months. Almunia has been seeking voluntary concessions from Google for two years to avoid a more aggressive investigation that could lead to fines.

Google continues to work with EU regulators about concerns they’ve raised, Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, said by telephone.

Competing Services

The world’s largest search provider may be asked by the EU to change how data from competing services are displayed along with search results, a person familiar with the EU probe said in July. Other modifications may include addressing how YouTube content is presented in reply to search requests and changes to a paid auction for competitors to bid on search links.

Microsoft said last week that its test of Google’s proposal to end the probe showed it would divert traffic to Google’s own services. A travel website group, ETTSA, said Google may generate an extra 330 million euros ($427 million) from links it would auction to rivals under the planned settlement.

The EU will “probably” open a formal investigation into Google’s Android mobile operating system if regulators don’t get “adequate” answers from the company to complaints, Almunia said. The EU is “trying to receive from Google some responses or explanations,” he said.

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