Google Plans to Settle EU Probe Should Be Rejected, Foundem Says

Google Inc.’s proposals to settle a European Union antitrust probe into the way it operates its search engine should be rejected, a U.K. company told the EU.

Given how “ill-suited” Google’s suggested remedies are, the European Commission, the EU’s antitrust regulator, has no other alternative “than to reject the proposals,” Foundem, a U.K. shopping comparison website, said today.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has sought a deal with Google to end the antitrust case, while competitors such as Microsoft Corp. and TripAdvisor Inc. have urged regulators to force Google to change its practices. The commission has said Google is dominant in Web search and search advertising in Europe and that the Mountain View, California-based company may harm competition.

“Google is keen to portray the commission’s acceptance of its proposals as a fait accompli,” Foundem, which filed a complaint against Google, said in an initial response to the EU’s so-called market test of the proposed settlement. “If the commission were to adopt anything like these proposals, it would kill any hope of re-establishing the level playing field on which competition, innovation, and consumer choice depends.”

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, said in an e-mail that the company continued to cooperate with the EU.

Rivals, users and companies in the same market were given a month on April 25 to provide feedback to the commission on Google’s planned changes. Almunia has said a settlement may be clinched “after the summer vacations” if the company’s offer is deemed acceptable.

“We will have to wait for the market test to play out, but, at the moment, we can see no reasonable alternative for the commission other than to reject the proposals,” Foundem said today.

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