Google and EU close to deal
Brussels gives a favourable assessment of the group’s improved offer
The US internet group’s latest offer to the European Commission closes loopholes.
Google’s main antitrust fight in Europe is on course to end in settlement, after Brussels gave a favourable assessment of the group’s improved offer to abide by legal restrictions when it presents search results.
After months of speculation that talks were close to collapse, Joaquín Almunia, EU competition commissioner, yesterday announced significant progress that suggested a settlement would address concerns about Google skewing results to its own advantage.
The US internet group’s latest offer to the European Commission closes loopholes and boosts the prominence and information provided in mandatory links to rival services, such as shopping or restaurant sites.
Given the improvements, Mr Almunia is open to pursuing a pre-charge deal, but the final decision will be subject to Google submitting data to show the effectiveness of the promises it is making.
Rivals will be informally consulted during that process, but there will be no formal “market test” on the draft pact. Mr Almunia’s decision moves a significant way to winding-up a three year EU inquiry – triggered by complaints from a cluster of tech rivals including Microsoft - that threatened to bring Google into a long legal battle that could end with large fines and intrusive restrictions on its business.
Mr Almunia ordered draft charges against Google to be updated after a draft settlement drew criticism from tech groups claiming it was “worse than doing nothing”. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013)