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European Commission close to deal with Google over competition concerns

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European Commission close to deal with Google over competition concerns


Internet giant Google is close to reaching an agreement with the European Commission (EC) over competition concerns.

The commission said the US firm may have favoured its own products and services in search results at the expense of competitors.

If a settlement is reached with the EC’s anti-trust rules – which is concerned with ensuring fair competition – it will mean Google avoiding a possible fine of up to $5 billion (€3.6bn).

A senior European Union official revealed on Wednesday both parties were now close to a deal, with a decision expected in the next few days or a couple of weeks at the latest.

The official said Google’s latest proposal, its third after EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia rejected an earlier offer as unacceptable, was “much better”.

This includes commitments from Google on how it treats rivals and how it uses content from other providers in future.

The US company in its second offer said it would let rivals display their logos and web links in a prominent box, and content providers decide which content it can use. It would also make it easier for advertisers to move their campaigns to rival platforms such as Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Bing.

EU regulators will not seek feedback from the 125 rivals, including Microsoft, and third parties who commented on Google’s previous proposals as they have a clear idea of their thinking after the last two market tests, the official said.

Almunia and Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, who were both in Davos for the World Economic Forum last week, are in permanent contact, the official said.

Google’s success in escaping an EU sanction and fines mirrors a similar outcome with US antitrust regulators.

The Federal Trade Commission in January last year ended a 19-month investigation with just a mild reprimand against the company, saying it had not manipulated its web site results and disappointing rivals and critics.

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