Google Rivals Ask Almunia to Send Complaint as Talks Continue

Google Inc.’s rivals urged European Union regulators to send antitrust objections to the world’s largest search-engine operator, almost two months after the company submitted settlement concessions to end a probe.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia should issue a statement of objections laying out antitrust concerns with the company’s search business because a settlement might not change Google’s conduct, TripAdvisor Inc. and Expedia Inc. along with seven other companies and two German media groups said in a letter today.

Google is “unlikely to volunteer effective, future-proof remedies without being formally charged with infringement,” the companies said in the letter.

Almunia has sought a deal with Google to end the more than two-year-old antitrust probe without imposing fines. He asked the company last year to give him a detailed offer to address allegations that Google promotes its own specialist search-services, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry.

The EU’s antitrust chief said this month that regulators prefer to use settlements to end cases in high-tech and fast-moving markets. After he received Google’s settlement offer in January, he said he hoped to check it with rivals and customers “in the coming months” and finalize it later this year.

Bill Echikson, a spokesman for Google, said the company was cooperating with regulators. Neither Mountain View, California-based Google nor the EU have disclosed the content of Google’s offer.

U.S. Probe

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.

In 2010, the EU 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. 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 in 2011, citing data from regulators.

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