European Commission Orders Google To Improve Its Antitrust Offer

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Joaquin Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition policy today said that EC has asked Google to improve its anti-trust offer.

European Commission started its anti-trust investigations against Google few years back and Google tried to convince EU couple of times with its new proposals and failed miserably. Earlier this year, EC announced that it has obtained an improved commitments proposal from Google in the context of the ongoing antitrust investigation on online search and search advertising. In its proposal, Google then accepted to guarantee that whenever it promotes its own specialized search services on its web page (e.g. for products, hotels, restaurants, etc.), the services of three rivals, selected through an objective method, will also be displayed in a way that is clearly visible to users and comparable to the way in which Google displays its own services. This principle will apply not only for existing specialized search services, but also to changes in the presentation of those services and for future services.

Microsoft on its part, conducted a study on Google’s proposed changes and concluded that users would click Google’s services 99 times more likely than competitor’s links in the current proposal. Also, EC received twenty formal complainants that gave them fresh evidence and solid arguments against several aspects of the latest proposals put forward by Google. So, they have now asked Google to improve their offer.

Read Almunia’s full response below,

The challenges of enforcing EU competition law in digital markets are mostly linked to their rapid evolution and to the fact that dominant companies can quickly rise to prominence and become gatekeepers for other market players.

This is often the result of innovation and smart business models, which we have to support. Market dominance through internal growth, innovation and success is not a competition problem. However, the abuse of a dominant position is indeed a serious competition problem.

This brings me, to conclude, to the ongoing Google investigation.

The case has attracted a lot of attention from the media, the industry, and political circles – including this Parliament.

Of course, everyone is entitled to have their opinions and views on the issues included in this investigation or on other aspects.

However, when it comes to conducting antitrust investigations and preparing decisions capable of removing competition concerns – in this as in any other case – the facts and arguments that really matter are those that fall within our formal proceedings.

I am sure you will agree with me when I strongly reject attempts to transform competition enforcement into an ordinary political debate.

Having said this, let me tell you where the case stands. As part of our standard practice in an Article 9 procedure – which leads to a commitments decision – and in response to our pre-rejection letters sent before the summer, some of the twenty formal complainants have given us fresh evidence and solid arguments against several aspects of the latest proposals put forward by Google.

At the beginning of the month, I have communicated this to the company asking them to improve its proposals. We now need to see if Google can address these issues and allay our concerns.

If Google’s reply goes in the right direction, Article 9 proceedings will continue. Otherwise, the logical next step is to prepare a Statement of Objections.

But regardless of the course this case will take, the European Commission – and in particular the Commissioner for Competition – must stand firm to preserve the independence, impartiality and objectivity of our procedures and decisions.

We are the most respected competition authority in the world precisely because of the way we guarantee these principles.

Source: European Commission

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