Google Proposes Way to End EC Probe
The EC means to poll Google’s rivals to see if they find the proposal acceptable
Apr. 16, 2013 08:00 AM
Google has reportedly offered to make minor changes to its web search engine to resolve its antitrust troubles with the European Commission and avoid a fine for allegedly manipulating its search results.
The details of the concessions package it's proposing are being kept a deep dark secret.
The EC means to poll Google's rivals to see if they find the proposal acceptable.
Google reportedly won't change it precious algorithms - but it will change the way it presents its search results in Europe unlike the rest of the world to include prominent links to rival search engines and clearly label its own services as being from Google according to the Financial Times.
That includes three links to alternate search results for every one of its own, according to the Wall Street Journal, impacting restaurants, finance and shopping results but not all of its specialized search sites that are paid for such as Google Shopper and Google Flight.
It will reportedly agree to a five-year legally binding agreement overseen by a neutral third party to ensure its obligations.
Reportedly the EC didn't find that Google deliberately downgraded rival search results as claimed.
Google has also reportedly agreed to give content providers the right to "opt out" of specialist search services - meaning its habit of "scraping" for Google News among other sites.
In fact, the FT says Google has "promised to set up a tool for sites to remove up to 10% of a site's content from vertical search."
Google reportedly told EC officials it would give advertisers who place ads next to search results - using AdWords, Google's top revenue generator - the ability to move their ad campaigns to rival ad platforms, including Microsoft's.
The proposal would change Google contracts requiring sites to become AdSense partners, giving them a more scope in placing ads from elsewhere on their pages.
Google can no longer demand exclusivity agreements from sites that embed its search on their web sites, and making "it easier for small business advertisers to move their campaigns from Google to other search engines."
Depending on how it actually works, advertisers could then move their campaigns to other search engines.
Google has been under investigation by the EC's regulators since 2010 thanks to rivals such as Microsoft. The US regulators also investigated Google but did nothing to hint its dominance.
Rivals may ask the EC for more stringent remedies, perhaps pressing for formal antitrust charges to be levied, since their complaints aren't completely addressed and it looks like Google has scored an impressive win.
The Financial Times, which said it was the "first time Google has yielded to antitrust pressure on its core search business, which handles almost 90% of queries in Europe," said the editorial changes wouldn't be constitutional under American law.
Google is now facing new charges that it's using Android "as a deceptive way to build advantages for key Google apps in 70% of the smartphones shipped today."
Rivals say it using Android to tie in Google apps. The Journal suggests that - since the EC didn't pin an antitrust charge on Google - Google will be able to escape civil charges.