Google submits proposals to head off EC investigation

Google submits proposals to head off EC investigation

Google has submitted a package of concessions to the European Commission in a bid to head off an antitrust investigation.

According to the Guardian, the search giant is understood to be offering to label results where its own companies, such as YouTube or Google Shopping, appear in listings when people perform searches, in a response to the principal complaint from the EC’s antitrust division.

Rivals have complained that Google artificially boosts its own properties and penalises rivals.

The proposals from Google will now undergo “market testing” with complainants, including the British “vertical search” company Foundem, which was one of the first companies in Europe to raise concerns.

Antoine Colombani, the Commission’s spokesman on competition policy, said: “In the last few weeks, the Commission completed its preliminary assessment formally setting out its concerns. On this basis, Google then made a formal submission of commitments to the Commission.

“We are now preparing the launch of a market test to seek feedback from market players, including complainants, on these commitment proposals.”

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, speaking in Washington, said on Thursday that whatever agreement is reached will be legally binding.

“I am trying to reach a decision … that will include legally binding commitments based on the Google proposal,” he told reporters.

Google first offered proposals at the end of January following a spate of complaints from rivals such as Microsoft that triggered the EC’s investigation in November 2010.

Last month a coalition of 11 European companies, including Foundem, wrote to Joaquin Almunia, the EC competition commissioner, urging him to raise a formal “statement of objections” to Google’s behaviour. ”

“Google’s search manipulation practices lay waste to entire classes of competitors in every sector where Google chooses to deploy them,” the companies said in the letter.

The EC wrote to Google in May 2012 saying it had concerns about the way that Google displayed its own “vertical search” services and its scraping of content from third-party sites to display in search results.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt denied that the company was violating European antitrust laws.

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