Google has offered a handful of proposals in the years-long antitrust probe in Europe to avoid having to pay as much as $6 billion in fines, but continues to have to go back to the drawing board.
Earlier this year, it was looking like a settlement was nigh, but ultimately, complainants convinced VP of the European Commission, Joaquin Almunia that Google wasn’t going far enough.
Currently, the commission is waiting on the company to come up with yet another revised set of proposals.
The commission released its annual competition report. Here is the full text of the portion that features Almunia talking about the Google case:
The case has attracted a lot of attention from the media, the industry, and political circles – including this Parliament.
Of course, everyone is entitled to have their opinions and views on the issues included in this investigation or on other aspects.
However, when it comes to conducting antitrust investigations and preparing decisions capable of removing competition concerns – in this as in any other case – the facts and arguments that really matter are those that fall within our formal proceedings.
I am sure you will agree with me when I strongly reject attempts to transform competition enforcement into an ordinary political debate.
Having said this, let me tell you where the case stands. As part of our standard practice in an Article 9 procedure – which leads to a commitments decision – and in response to our pre-rejection letters sent before the summer, some of the twenty formal complainants have given us fresh evidence and solid arguments against several aspects of the latest proposals put forward by Google.
At the beginning of the month, I have communicated this to the company asking them to improve its proposals. We now need to see if Google can address these issues and allay our concerns.
If Google’s reply goes in the right direction, Article 9 proceedings will continue. Otherwise, the logical next step is to prepare a Statement of Objections.
But regardless of the course this case will take, the European Commission – and in particular the Commissioner for Competition – must stand firm to preserve the independence, impartiality and objectivity of our procedures and decisions.
We are the most respected competition authority in the world precisely because of the way we guarantee these principles.
The Wall Street Journal has additional comments from Almunia, as well as from Danish economy minister Margrethe Vestager, who will succeed Almunia in his position in November:
“We have to make sure that there is a high degree of security in relation to personal data, that there is a high degree of confidence from the people that the competition rules and regulations on market fairness are actually being enforced,” she said.
FairSearch, a coalition of some of Google’s biggest opponents (led by Microsoft), recently held a panel to discuss the Google probe. You can watch videos from that here to hear their current thoughts on the matter.
For now, the ball appears to be in Google’s court once again, until it offers up further concessions, and everyone is unsatisfied yet again.
Image via Google