Newspaper article International New York Times

E.U. Says Google Must Try Again in Antitrust Case ; Though Tentative Deal Was Reached in October, Almunia Now Backs Away

Newspaper article International New York Times

E.U. Says Google Must Try Again in Antitrust Case ; Though Tentative Deal Was Reached in October, Almunia Now Backs Away

Article excerpt

The European Union had agreed to a tentative deal in October that would have required Google to provide rivals with greater visibility on Web search queries.

Google's latest proposal to settle an antitrust investigation in Europe does not go far enough, the European Union's competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, said Friday.

Though his comments stopped short of a formal rejection, they are a blow to Google as it tries to settle the investigation into whether it abused its dominant position as the most widely used search engine in Europe.

The European Union had agreed to a tentative deal in October that would have required Google to provide rivals with greater visibility on Web search queries.

After allowing competitors to review the proposed deal, Mr. Almunia decided that the concessions were insufficient, meaning that any deal will most likely be pushed back until after the spring.

Speaking to Spanish radio, he said Google's "latest proposals are not acceptable." He added that time was running out for the company to offer further concessions that would allay the authorities' concerns about potential anticompetitive practices. He did not say which of Google's concessions had not gone far enough.

"The ball is still in Google's court," Mr. Almunia said. "Within a short time frame, the ball will be here, and then it will be the moment to make decisions."

In response, Google said that its latest concessions, which are its second set after its original one was rejected in May, already addressed the concerns of the European Commission, or E.C., the European Union's executive arm.

"We've made significant changes to address the E.C.'s concerns, greatly increasing the visibility of rival services and addressing other specific issues," Al Verney, a Google spokesman in Brussels, said in a statement.

European regulators began the case in November 2010. It centers on Google's potentially favoring its own products and services over those of rivals in its search results. Google is used for roughly 90 percent of Internet searches in many large European markets; its market share is about 70 percent in the United States.

As part of the proposed deal announced in October, Google would have had to give greater prominence to rivals in searches about specific topics like travel and online shopping. …

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