Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Google settles with EU in antitrust case

07 February 2014, 06:54

Brussels - The European Union's antitrust watchdog on Wednesday accepted "far-reaching" concessions offered by Google to settle allegations it is abusing its dominant position in internet searches, bringing the three-year-old case close to an end.

Google would significantly change the ways it displays some search results in Europe in favour of its competitors. But reaching a settlement will spare the company a longer antitrust procedure that could have resulted in fines of up to 10% of the company's annual revenue, or about $5bn.

EU Antitrust Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said he's "strongly convinced" the US company's proposals - its third attempt to address the competition concerns - are sufficient.

"This is an important step forward," he told reporters in Brussels.

Google's proposals will now be sent to the 18 original plaintiffs for evaluation before the Commission makes a final decision in the coming months. Initial reactions from plaintiffs and consumer groups were unanimously negative, but Almunia said he was confident the deal with Google will be upheld.

Natural search results

Under its latest proposal, Google will commit to display results from three competitors in a similar way to its own whenever it promotes its specialised search services like Google shopping, restaurant or hotel searches.

It will also label more clearly search results stemming from its own services to allow users to distinguish between natural search results and those promoted by Google.

A shopping search for a gas grill, for example, would yield two boxes of the same size and position at the top of the search results page, one showing three "Google shopping results" and immediately to the left of it three results labelled "Alternatives", according to an example provided by the Commission.

At present, only Google's own results are displayed prominently above all other search results. The changes will also be valid for search results displayed on mobile devices.

"Without preventing Google from improving its own services, it provides users with real choice between competing services presented in a comparable way," Almunia said.

The results from three competing search providers would be chosen using Google's web search algorithm and, in most cases, other search services would have to pay for their placement through an auction mechanism - a solution that competitors and consumer groups alike criticised for strengthening Google's already dominant position.

The EU Commission last year threw out two sets of proposed concessions by Google because they were deemed insufficient.

Legally binding

"We will be making significant changes to the way Google operates in Europe," said Kent Walker, Google's general counsel. Google declined to discuss financial repercussions of the decision.

Once a settlement is reached, the concessions will be legally binding for five years across the 28-country EU, the world's largest economy. The company, based in Mountain View, California, has a market share of about 90% of internet searches in Europe, compared with around 70% in the U.S.

"The concessions are far-reaching and have the clear potential of restoring a level playing field with competitors, said Almunia. "No antitrust authority in the world has obtained such concessions."

The US Federal Trade Commission investigated Google in a similar case last year and decided not to take action.

Google's competitors, however, were not impressed. Internet commerce lobby group Icomp said the Commission should have given Google's competitors more time to examine and test the concessions.

"Without a third party review, Almunia risks having the wool pulled over his eyes by Google," the group said.

FairSearch, a Microsoft-led group of Google's tech competitors that includes firms like Oracle, Expedia and Tripadvisor, condemned the Commission's move as being "worse than doing nothing".

Consumer groups

Its lawyer Thomas Vinje said the proposed commitments will "lock in discrimination and raise rivals' costs instead of solving the problem of Google's anti-competitive practices".

EU and US consumer groups were unhappy about the outcome.

"The deal as outlined would give Google more power over competitors than is now the case, ultimately limiting consumer choice and driving prices higher," said Consumer Watchdog's John M Simpson.

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...