Google responds to Europe antitrust investigators
GOOGLE has made a proposal to the European Commission in an attempt to bring to a close the antitrust investigation into its dominance of the search market.
In a letter to Joaquin Almunia, the competition commissioner, Google's executive chairman set out several proposals in response to areas of concern identified by the European Commission.
“We have made a proposal to address the four areas the European Commission described as potential concerns. We continue to work cooperatively with the Commission," a Google spokesman said. No further details of the letter were revealed.
However, ICOMP, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, a lobbying group backed by Google's search rival Microsoft, welcomed the announcement.
David Wood, ICOMP counsel, said: "It is essential that the proposed remedies receive vigorous scrutiny not only by the Commission but also by third parties, to ensure they provide full redress for the damage caused by Google’s behaviour and prevent its repetition. Any failure to do so will likely have grave consequences for online competition, innovation and consumer choice."
In May, Mr Almunia gave Google a July deadline to propose remedies to protect competition online or face the prospect of heavy fines. Without negotiations, Mr Almunia said, European antitrust authorities would issue a "statement of objections", the first step towards fines of up to 10 per cent of Google's global revenues, which were $37.9bn in 2011.
Speaking at Google's Big Tent conference in Hertfordshire in May, Mr Schmidt said: "We disagree that we are in violation. Until they are precise about what areas of the law we have violated, it will be very difficult for me to speculate." He said Google agreed "completely" that the search company should "have a conversation" with the Commission.
The European Commission’s investigation was opened in November in response to a series of complaints from smaller web firms, including the British price comparison service Foundem, which said Google had relegated it in general results.
It has called for Google to be forced to adopt “search neutrality”, meaning it would not be allowed to promote its own services in general search results.
According to Experian Hitwise, Google firm handles more than 90 per cent of British web searches, and is similarly dominant across the continent. The denies that it abuses its position, however, and argues that people are free to switch to different services at any time online.
Google is currently facing scrutiny from regulators in the US, South Korea and Argentina.