Google finally reaches settlement in European antitrust case


Google has agreed to a settlement with European competition regulators after the search giant agreed to make "significant" alterations to how rival companies appear in search results.

Google proposed the changes to avoid a potential five billion Euro fine. The firm has been accused of favouring its own products in search results to the detriment of others.

The latest proposal sees Google displaying results from three rival search firms in a similar manner whenever it promotes its own search services. This is in addition to Google's previous concession that included giving content providers the ability to opt-out of its search services.

It will also remove exclusivity requirements in its agreements with publishers for the provision of search advertisements; and will lift restrictions on the ability for search advertising campaigns to be run on competing search advertising platforms.

It was hoped the concessions would be sufficient to secure a settlement in the long-running antitrust case, and it now appears they have.

The company has escaped a fine, and the Commission has acknowledged that no other antitrust authority in the world has obtained the number of concessions it has.

The deal does, however, require formal approval by the European Commission.

Joaqun Almunia, European Commission vice president in charge of competition policy, said: "My mission is to protect competition to the benefit of consumers, not competitors. I believe that the new proposal obtained from Google after long and difficult talks can now address the Commission's concerns.

"Without preventing Google from improving its own services, it provides users with real choice between competing services presented in a comparable way; it is then up to them to choose the best alternative. This way, both Google and its rivals will be able and encouraged to innovate and improve their offerings.

"Turning this proposal into a legally binding obligation for Google would ensure that competitive conditions are both restored quickly and maintained over the next years."

Google's General Counsel, Kent Walker, said in statement: "We will be making significant changes to the way Google operates in Europe. We have been working with the European Commission to address issues they raised and look forward to resolving this matter."

The EC said Google's compliance with these commitments would be supervised by an independent monitoring trustee. It will also inform complainants about the new terms before the issue is finally settled.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.