Google Reaches Antitrust Agreement With EC: Report

After a two-year antitrust investigation by the European Commission, a Google proposal for a settlement is being accepted by the agency.

Google has proposed an antitrust settlement with the European Commission that apparently satisfies the European regulators and that will help bring about the end of a two-year investigation into antitrust charges against the search company.

The proposed settlement was reported April 14, according to a story in The New York Times that was written based on anonymous sources who were familiar with the agreement.

"Under the proposal, Google agrees to clearly label search results from its own properties, like Google Plus Local or Google News, and in some cases to show links from rival search engines," The New York Times reported. "The changes will not be widely seen for at least a month, while rivals and others in the industry can weigh in on the plan, in a process called market testing."

Google won't have to change the algorithm that produces its search results, according to the story.

Instead, "the biggest change has to do with search results related to topics like shopping and flights, a field known as vertical search," the story reported.

Those are the areas where competitors have been complaining that Google favors its own results over theirs, which has been one of the key complaints that led to the investigation by the EC. The agency is the executive arm of the European Union.

In a request by eWEEK for comment on the report, a Google spokesman said only, "We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission."

The EC agreement "would be legally binding for five years, and a third party would ensure compliance," the report stated. "If it abides by the agreement, though, Google will avoid fines and a formal finding of wrongdoing."

Interestingly, Joaquin Almunia, the EU's Competition Commissioner, said in February that he expected the ongoing EC investigation into Google to continue through at least late August before any decisions would be reached, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

The EU had received a collection of antitrust remedy proposals from Google in late January and has been 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.

After a two-year antitrust investigation by the European Commission, a Google proposal for a settlement is being accepted by the agency.