EU May Need Extra Concessions From Google Antitrust ProbeAoife White
Google Inc. may need to make extra concessions to European Union regulators to rescue an antitrust settlement that faces opposition from technology companies and politicians, a person familiar with the case said.
Google may be asked by the EU to change how data from competing services are displayed along with search results, said the person who asked not to be identified because the decision isn’t final. Other modifications may include addressing how YouTube content is presented in reply to search requests and changes to a paid auction for rivals to bid on search links, the person said.
Any changes to the deal in the more than three-year probe would mark an about-face for EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, who has defended the settlement in the face of criticism from other EU officials and Google rivals. Deutsche Telekom AG and French and German publishers have filed additional complaints about the company in recent months.
Google competitors “continue to have serious concerns” about the planned settlement and need a decision that remedies past abuses and acts as a sufficient deterrent to future competition issues, said David Wood, a lawyer in Brussels representing opponents of the deal. U.K. shopping comparison site Foundem told Almunia in an open letter that the current pact’s auction of links would generate billions of dollars of revenue for Google at the expense of smaller rivals.
The EU won’t decide on what it will do with its antitrust case until September and must choose whether to accept the pact as it stands or broaden it to include new issues, the person said.
Al Verney, a spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google in Brussels, declined to comment beyond a February blog post from the company’s general counsel, Kent Walker, that said Google has made “significant concessions” that address the EU’s competition concerns.
Regulators have sent letters to 20 opponents of the deal, including Microsoft Corp. and Expedia Inc. and Almunia has promised to weigh their responses before deciding whether to finally accept Google’s settlement offer, which would then shut the antitrust case without imposing any fines or making any finding that the company violated antitrust law. The last of the responses is due by Aug. 4, the person said.
Google is proposing to show links from rival search services next to its own specialized searches, such as Google Shopping. Competitors would pay for a spot in a shaded box on some of Google’s search pages.
No decision has been made on whether to open a separate probe into Google’s mobile operating system, Android, the person said.
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