After three years, Google settles EU antitrust case

Steven Loeb · February 5, 2014 · Short URL:

To avoid being fined, Google will display search results from three competitors for the next 5 years

It has taken over three years, but the antitrust case brought against Google by the European Union looks to finally be coming to an end.

Google has agreed to settlement, in which the company has avoided having to pay fines by offering to display results from rival search services, according to a report from Bloomberg early Wednesday.

Under the terms of the deal, as long as Google links to three of its rival services next to its own search results for the next five years, the EU will allow Google add new services or alter its search page without any repercussions.

If the company violates these terms, it could have to pay as much as 10% of its global revenue; considering that the company made roughly $50 billion in 2012, that could mean as much as a $5 billion fine.

Something tells me that Google is not going to violate the terms of this settlement.

“We will be making significant changes to the way Google operates in Europe. We have been working with the European Commission to address issues they raised and look forward to resolving this matter," Kent Walker, SVP and general counsel, said in a statement provided to VatorNews. 

The case against Google has been going on since November 2010, when the European Union opened an investigation on charges of “unfavorable treatment of their services in Google’s unpaid and sponsored search results."

The European Commission received complaints from competing Internet search providers that Google has been placing their services lower in result rankings while giving preferential placing of its own. Additionally, the commission was also investigating whether Google had prevented Internet companies from placing ads from Google competitors on their websites.

The complaints were brought forth by three companies: Foundem, a British price comparison service; Ciao, a Microsoft-owned German price comparison service; and eJustice, a French legal search service. 

Some of Google's competitors have already expressed unhappiness with the settlement.

David Wood, a lawyer representing some of Google’s competitors, told Bloomberg that Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia "risks having the wool pulled over his eyes."

They were especially unhappy that Almunia said on Wednesday that he would accept Google's latest concessions without consulting the complainants.

“A settlement without third-party review is a massive failure," said Wood.

While Google must be happy to finally have this probe behind it, it's not out of the woods just yet. There is a second investigation by the EU currently ongoing into Android operating system.

FairSearch, a group whose members include Microsoft and Finland's Nokia, have accused Google of using Android to divert traffic to its search engine.

The European Commission was not available for further comment on the report.

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