Google Offers Euro Proposal to Avoid Antitrust Showdown

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has offered European regulators a proposal intended to avoid an antitrust showdown over its search business. Details of the proposal were not made public, but a Google spokesperson said that the company was working to address four areas of concern.

Google in Europe

Google in Europe

“We have made a proposal to address the four areas the European Commission described as potential concerns,” Google spokesperson Al Verney said, according to The Washington Post. “We continue to work cooperatively with the commission.”

EU regulators have been investigating Google over is practice of favoring its own services over those of its competitors, the manner in which content from other sites is displayed, how it manages ads that are displayed with search results, and the company’s market power within the European online ad market.

At stake are fines that could be as much as 10 percent of Google’s annual revenues, or $3.8 billion per year—Europe tends to be a tad more serious about regulating its markets than regulators in the U.S. Not surprisingly, Google would like to avoid a scenario where it is paying fines that exceed the GDP of roughly 30 countries.

Fortunately, European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has stated publicly that he’d rather end market abuse than levee fines against, especially when it comes to Internet companies, which move far faster than most regulatory bodies.

“I believe that these fast-moving markets would particularly benefit from a quick resolution of the competition issues identified,” Mr. Almunia said in May. “Restoring competition swiftly to the benefit of users at an early stage is always preferable to lengthy proceedings, although these sometimes become indispensable to competition enforcement.”

As noted above, the specifics of Google’s proposal haven’t been made public. The company has also earned the attention of U.S. regulators concerned with such things as Google ranking its own services above those of competitors.