EU says Google will have to up antitrust offer

GOOGLE will have to concede more ground to European regulators to make it through a competition probe, the EU antitrust chief suggested yesterday.

Joaquin Almunia, the European Commission’s competition commissioner, said he was “almost 100 per cent” certain that the search engine will have to offer more changes to its service than the ones proposed earlier this year.

Google has pledged to display prominent links to rival services as well as clearly highlighting the supplementary features, such as maps and price comparison, it builds into search results. It hopes by doing so it will avoid a massive fine from the EU, which accuses Google of abusing its dominance in web searches to promote those supplementary features at the expense of rival services.

The EU has asked the group of companies that complained about Google’s alleged abuse to respond to the concessions, with many suggesting they do not go far enough.

Yesterday, Almunia said having taken the complaints on board he was likely to tell Google the proposals were not good enough. “After [a deadline for submissions] we will analyse the responses we have received... almost 100 per cent we will ask Google: ‘You should improve your proposals,’” he said.

The original complainants include Nokia, Microsoft and TripAdvisor, as well as Foundem, a British price comparison service. Some companies have publicly expressed their dismay at the concessions, with one gripe being that the changes would only apply to local European versions of the website, rather than the widely-used Google.com.

If Google fails to reach an agreement, the EU has the power to fine it up to 10 per cent of its global revenue. In March, Microsoft was fined €561m (£480m) over competition concerns.