The search giant reportedly has sent EU investigators concessions it's willing to make in hopes of avoiding formal charges.
Google executives reportedly are proposing
changes to the way the company runs its search engine in hopes of staving off
formal charges by European antitrust regulators.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has sent a
letter to the European Unions antitrust head, Competition Commissioner Joaquin
Almunia, that outlines steps the massive Web company would be willing to take
to address concerns that EU investigators have regarding Googles dominant
position in search, including claims that it favors its own search results over
Almunia in May had given Google officials
until early July to address that and other concerns, including the use of
material from other search engines in its results and its dominance in Web
advertising, all of which investigators have said put competitors at an unfair
In a statement to media outlets July 2,
Google spokesman Al Verney said that the company has made a proposal to
address the four areas the European Commission described as potential concerns.
We continue to work cooperatively with the Commission.
A spokesperson for Almunia told reporters
that Almunia had received a letter from Schmidt regarding concessions aimed at
ending the investigation. No one from the European Commission (EC), the
antitrust arm of the EU or Google would elaborate on the proposals.
Google officials are under investigation in
Europe, the United States and elsewhere regarding its search engine, which
holds more than 60 percent of the search market, with Microsofts Bing being a
distant second. Competitors have claimed that Google works its search
algorithms to favor its own products and results over those of others, giving
it an unfair advantage in search and Web advertising.
In a June 7 opinion piece on The Wall Street Journals Website, Jeffrey
Katz, CEO of online comparative shopping site Nextag and former CEO of
online travel site Orbitz, said that where once running a Google search would
result in the most relevant results, that has changed as Google has grown
larger. Now the most prominent results are displayed because companies paid
Google for that privilege, Katz wrote. In addition, Google often uses its
prime real estate to promote its own (often less relevant and inferior)
products and services, prohibiting companies from buying its best
[A]s a result, it has shifted from a true
search site into a commerce sitea commerce site whose search algorithm favors
products and services from Google and those from companies able to spend the
most on advertising.
Amit Singhal, senior vice president of
engineering, disputed Katzs claims in a blog post the next day.
While were always happy to have feedback
about how we can improve, its more useful if that feedback is based on facts,
Singhal wrote, saying that Katz makes several claims that are wrongor
suggests that Google start doing things that we already do.
However, regulators in both the United States
and abroad have similar concerns. Almunia in May put Google on notice: address
the concerns or risk seeing formal charges filed. That came a month after the U.S.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it had hired Beth Wilkinsona former
federal prosecutor best known for directing the case against Oklahoma City
bomber Timothy McVeigh and his accomplice, Terry Nicholsto head
its investigation of Google.
In Europe, officials with the FairSearch coalition said they wanted to
be part of the review process for the proposals Google has sent Almunia.
The FairSearch coalition looks forward to
engaging with the European Commission and Vice President Joaquin Almunia as
interested third parties provide feedback on appropriate remedies to restore a
competitive marketplace, Thomas Vinje, EU counsel to FairSearch, said in a
July 2 statement. We hope the proposals reflect a greater willingness to end
Googles anti-competitive behavior than has its consistent rejection of the
concerns that Mr. Almunia identified after collecting evidence for nearly two
FairSearch is a coalition of 17 online
companiesincluding TripAdvisor, Kayak, Microsoft, HotWire, Expedia and
Travelocitythat claim Google is using its dominant search market position to
unfairly stifle competition and harm consumers.