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December 20, 2013

Google could face heavy fines after EU rejects latest antitrust settlement offer

by John_A

More than three years after it opened its investigation into Google’s search practices, the European Commission has warned the company that time to settle the case has all but run out. According to Reuters, Commission antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia said today that Google’s latest proposals are “not acceptable” and don’t do enough to “eliminate [its] concerns regarding competition.” The regulator opened its antitrust investigation in 2010 after a number of price comparison companies accused Google of unfairly downranking competitors in search results.

To escape a potential fine of up to $5 billion, the company previously offered to include more labelling of links that promote its own services (like Shopping) to indicate that they were promoted placements, but they were rejected. While it was suggested that Google’s most recent concessions, which included giving competitors the chance to bid on second-place search rankings behind Google’s own, had done enough to get the Commission’s stamp of approval, today’s announcement confirms that’s not the case. Almunia told the AP that he has yet to decide if he will file charges against the search giant, but did say that there is “little time left” for a settlement. As it stands, the “ball is in Google’s court,” but the Commission will be the one to decide when the buzzer sounds.

[Image Credit: european_parliament, Flickr]

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Source: Reuters, Associated Press

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