US Internet giant Google must come up with “new solutions” to meet complaints from competitors about its proposed anti-trust settlement with Brussels, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has said.
Google and the Commission agreed a deal in February over charges the world’s largest search engine was squeezing out competitors in Europe, so avoiding potentially billions in fines against the company.
In that agreement, Google accepted to give equal prominence to rival services in its search results after competitors — including Microsoft and TripAdvisor — argued the company has abused its dominant position in the European market, where it accounts for 90 percent of traffic.
At that time, Almunia said he had expected to wrap up the deal once the last competitor complaints were resolved and before the end of his mandate on October 31.
However since then “some complainants introduced new arguments, new data, new considerations”, Almunia told Bloomberg TV in an interview late Monday.
“We need to analyse this and to see if… Google can find solutions to some of these concerns that we consider justified,” he said.
EU rules state that a company found at fault in an anti-trust probe can be fined up to 10 percent of its annual sales, in Google’s case some $55.5 billion in 2013.
European lawmakers Ramon Tremosa and Andreas Schwab, who have fought hard to see the Commission’s proposed deal with Google shelved, welcomed Almunia’s “long awaited change of direction”.
The MEPs said the decision “is necessary” as the proposed solution “does not solve the underlying problem of traffic diversion to solely the benefit of Google services.”
They added that the “pressure would be maintained” on the incoming competition commissioner who is expected to be named later this week.