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EU Poised to Reject Google Antitrust Settlement Offer

EU Poised to Reject Google Antitrust Settlement Offer

And the EU is considering action against Android as well

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said this morning that he would most likely reject Google’s proposed antitrust settlement. Instead, the EU will demand more concessions from the online advertising giant, which is accused of illegally harm Internet search rivals.

“After we analyze the responses we have received, we will ask Google, probably, I cannot anticipate this formally, almost 100 percent we will ask Google, you should improve your proposals,” Mr. Almunia said Tuesday during a hearing at the European Parliament.

After receiving complaints from three EU-based search services, the European Commission (EC) in February 2010 announced its investigation of Google’s business practices. It has since described Google’s Internet search and online advertising market share as “dominant” and sought concession from the firm.

In April, Google submitted a set of concessions to the EU that it hoped would help it avoid legally imposed remedies and fines. It agreed to “clearly label” search results that come from its own products and services and, “in some cases,” point customers to rival services. But it said it would not change its search algorithms.

The EU had originally given Google’s rivals until May 26 to respond to Google’s proposed remedies. But Almunia extended the deadline until June 27 after the companies complained the original deadline didn’t give them enough time. This week’s comments, however, suggest that the EU itself isn’t swayed by Google’s efforts, so EC regulators may be looking for suggestions from competitors about how the Google concessions could be expanded.

Almunia is also considering a similar antitrust probe against Google’s Android OS, with which Google is accused of stealing the intellectual property of other firms and giving it away in the free system. An industry trade group that includes Microsoft and Nokia filed a formal complaint against Android with the EU last month.

“We have received a formal complaint regarding some aspects of the Android ecosystem,” Almunia acknowledged Tuesday. “We are working on it. We have not decided if we will open or not a formal investigation.”

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