Google backs down in face of EU anti-trust regulators

Google has made a number of concessions to EU antitrust regulators, including displaying competitors logos on its search display results page. The EU investigation into Google began in 2010, seeking to find out whether Google was stifling competition. Google's proposals are intended to answer the problems that were highlighted under EU antitrust rules.

1) The favourable treatment, within Google’s web search results, of links to Google’s own specialised web search services as compared to links to competing specialised web search services.

2) The use by Google, without consent, of original content from third party web sites in its own specialised web search services. This may reduce competitors' incentives to invest in the creation of original content.

3) Conditions on publishers preventing them from displaying search advertisements from Google's competitors on their websites; and

4) Contractual restrictions on advertisers preventing them from porting and managing their search advertising campaigns across Google's and competing search advertising platforms.

Joaquin Almunia, vice president of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy, said in a speech on Tuesday:

My responsibility when enforcing the antitrust rules in this case is to make sure that Internet users are provided with choice, so they can decide between services based on their merits, and to preserve incentives to innovate across the board, so that users can benefit from new or better services tomorrow.

Google has agreed to stop placing in its agreements with publishers any provisions that compel them to source their requirements for search advertisements exclusively from Google. Google will cease to prevent advertisers from porting and managing advertising campaigns across Google's services and competing services. Google's proposal also included an independent monitoring trustee to assist the Commission in ensuring that Google's proposals are implemented.

These concessions were greeted with optimism by Mr Alumnia

With the significant improvements on the table, I think we have the possibility to work again and seek to find an effective solution based on a decision under Article 9 of the Antitrust Regulation.

Article nine of the antitrust regulation makes decisions accepting proposals from a company legally binding. Google was warned that should the commission accept the proposals and finds Google to be in breach of them, the company could face a fine similar to Microsoft's earlier this year of £468m.