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Google settles EU antitrust probe by promising links to competitors

Image Credit: TopRank

After a three-year antitrust probe by the European Commission, Google is finally out of hot water.

The EC announced this morning that it has reached a settlement with Google, which will link to at least three of its competitors on specialized search pages (like Google Shopping and Google News), Bloomberg reports. By doing so, Google will avoid fines from the EU — and perhaps most importantly, regulators won’t label it as anti-competitive.

The EU probe was triggered by complaints from Microsoft, TripAdvisor, and other Internet companies that said Google’s search results prioritized its own services at the expense of competitors. Microsoft’s involvement in this case is particularly ironic, since it also settled with the EU several years ago for its browser monopoly. Last year, Google tipped off the EU about Microsoft’s non-compliance with that settlement, which led to a $732 million fine.

If Google fails to comply with this ruling, it could be fined as much as 10 percent of its global revenues, Bloomberg notes.

“I believe that the new proposal obtained from Google after long and difficult talks can now address the commission’s concerns,” Joaquin Almunia, the EU Competition Commissioner, said in a statement. “It provides users with real choice between competing services presented in a comparable way.”

But despite Google’s concession, its rivals still aren’t happy with the news. David Wood, a lawyer representing some of Google’s competitors, tells Bloomberg that the settlement is a “massive failure” without input by Google’s competitors.

Commissioner Almunia, to his credit, noted today that his goal is to protect competition for consumers — not Google’s competitors.


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