Google avoids a £3bn fine with EU antitrust deal

Oliver Smith
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GOOGLE will avoid a fine from the European Union (EU) Competition Commission which could have amounted to up to £3bn, after it agreed to make concessions on how it displays competitors’ links on its website yesterday.

Google has been the subject of a Competition Commission investigation into its search practices since 2010 when complainants, including Microsoft, accused it of promoting its own services.

“I believe that Google’s new proposals are capable of addressing the competition concerns I set out to them. Therefore, from now on we will move forward towards a decision based on commitments,” said Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia yesterday, adding that he would accept Google’s latest concessions without consulting the complainants.

“The alternative of adversarial proceedings would take many years, with many uncertainties, and would not have the same immediate impact.”

Under the settlement, Google will let three rivals display their logos and web links in a prominent box, and content providers will decide what material Google can use.

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

Google may still face a second Competition Commission investigation, this time into its Android smartphone operating system.

Lobbying group FairSearch, whose members include Microsoft and Finland’s Nokia, has accused Google of using Android to divert traffic to its search engine.

Almunia said he will discuss the next step in the Android case in the coming weeks.