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European Commission Seeks Feedback on Google Deal

European Commission Seeks Feedback on Google Deal
April 25, 2013 10:54AM

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Analyst Greg Sterling said the agreement by Google to display "prominent links" to competitor services in Google search results is a significant concession to the European Union and Google critics. It may not be sufficient to satisfy them, however. "If not, it appears the antitrust action will proceed," he said.

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Google has agreed to address some of the anticompetitive issues the European Commission has pointed out in the wake of rival complaints. On Thursday, the European Commission published the search engine giant's proposed resolution and asked for feedback.

For starters, Google would try to appease the EC by clearly marking its own services in search results and displaying competitive services close by. The resolution also promised, for a period of five years, to clearly separate Google's promoted links from other Web search results with graphical features.

The EC is interested because, by its figures, Google has a market share of more than 90 percent in the European Economic Area. And EU laws prohibit "any abuse by one or more undertakings of a dominant position within the internal market or a substantial part of it in so far as it may affect trade between Member States."

Is it Enough?

Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, said the agreement by Google to display "prominent links" to competitor services in its search results is a significant concession to the EU and its critics. It may not be sufficient to satisfy them, however.

"The other 'several areas of concern' are easily addressed and relatively non-controversial versus the 'vertical search' issue. The EU has taken a different philosophical and legal position versus the U.S. FTC, which didn't seek to challenge Google's control over its own search results in the way that the EU has," Sterling told us.

"It's by no means clear that the proposal Google has made will mollify critics and pass the EU's market test. If not, it appears the antitrust action will proceed."

Waiting for Feedback

Google is trying to avoid that scenario. The company also proposed to offer all specialized search Web sites that focus on product or local search the option to mark certain categories of information in such a way that it is not indexed or used by Google. The company would also work up a mechanism that allows newspaper publishers to control the display of their content in Google News on a Web-page-by-Web-page basis.

The tech titan is further promising to stop including any written or unwritten obligations in its agreements with publishers that would require them to source online search advertisements exclusively from Google or impose obligations that would prevent advertisers from managing search advertising campaigns across competing advertising platforms.

But the EC isn't ready to accept Google's terms without feedback. The EC said:

"Google has made proposals to try to address the Commission's four competition concerns. Interested parties can now submit their comments within one month. The Commission will take them into account in its analysis of Google's commitment proposals. If the Commission concludes that they address its four competition concerns, it may decide to make them legally binding on Google."

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