Google forced to give rivals more space in European search results


Google has offered further concessions to address regulatory concerns about its search technology, the European Commission said on Wednesday, effectively settling a three-year investigation and avoiding a fine of up to $5 billion.

Under the agreement, Google would pay no fine and there would be no finding of wrongdoing. Such a finding could have limited its future activities in Europe.

The discussions have centred on whether Google abused its dominance in Internet search and advertising to favour its own products and services in search results.

The agreement would require Google to give rivals more prominence in its promoted results. Some competitors said the settlement doesn’t go far enough, adding that they may take their case to the European Court of Justice.

The search engine has been the focus of a Commission investigation since November 2010, when more than a dozen complainants across Europe accused the company of promoting its own services at their expense.

The latest changes should be sufficient to end a three-year investigation into the search company, the EU's competition commissioner said.

In a news conference, European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said he would not seek feedback on the deal from Google's rivals before it was formalised.

"I consider at this point that we don't need a market test," he told reporters.

The decision has prompted criticism from lobby groups, including the Microsoft-backed Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (Icomp).

"A settlement without third party review is a massive failure," the group said. “We need time and opportunity to ensure full technical assessment of how effective the proposed remedies would be."

Google argued that its proposals were fair and wide-reaching.

"We will be making significant changes to the way Google operates in Europe," said Google lawyer Kent Walker. "We have been working with the European Commission to address issues they raised."

The move marks the third time Google has offered changes and concessions to its services in order to satisfy the EU's concerns.

Previous offers - such as displaying logos to denote when a Google product was being promoted - were not deemed to go far enough.

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