Google, EU Deal on Search Includes Search Display Changes

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-04-27 Print this article Print

Google will move to improve how it labels ads in its search results and how it displays links to competitors to resolve antitrust allegations in Europe.

The settlement stems from claims by Google competitors that have long complained that Google favors its own search results over theirs. Those complaints led to the investigation by the EC.

The EU had received a collection of antitrust remedy proposals from Google in late January and was reviewing them to determine if the matter could be resolved through a settlement. Google had been trying to come up with proposed remedies for some time that would satisfy EU regulators and persuade them to close their case against the search giant. Google had sent previous lists of proposals to the EU in the summer of 2012, but those earlier proposals failed to satisfy European regulators. Google was given more time—until this past Jan. 31—to submit new proposals.

The EU investigation centers on what regulators regard as Google's dominant position in search.

Google holds more than 60 percent of the world's search market, with Microsoft's 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.

Google's legal situation in Europe continues even as a similar antitrust probe in the United States was resolved in Google's favor in January. Instead of a major antitrust prosecution in the United States, Google entered into a voluntary agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to change some of its business practices to resolve the complaints of some competitors about Google's practices.

In the FTC case, key competitor Microsoft had led a fight with other technology companies to argue for strong FTC actions against Google to punish it for what they believed were unfair business practices.

Those competitors, meanwhile, launched a fresh new offensive against Google in the EU earlier this month by filing a complaint with the EU concerning Google's free Android mobile operating system. The complaint argues that Android is illegally trying to dominate the market through deception and predatory pricing.

The new complaint was filed by a group called FairSearch Europe with the EC even as the EU continued its almost two-year-long probe into Google's search practices in Europe. The group alleged in its complaint that Google is following an "anti-competitive strategy to dominate the mobile marketplace and cement its control over consumer Internet data for online advertising as usage shifts to mobile."

The complaint before the EC comes as the marketplace rivalry between Google and Microsoft appears to be growing exponentially. In early March, reports surfaced that it was Google that had turned Microsoft in involving a recent case in which Microsoft had failed to offer a choice of Web browsers to early users of its Windows 7 computer operating system, which the company must do as part of a 2009 settlement regarding the same issue. In that case, the EU fined Microsoft $732 million.


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