At the beginning of the month, European Commission antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia gave a speech providing an update on where the lengthy Google antitrust probe stood. He said the Commission had been negotiating with the company, and Google had offered up “improvements” to the commitments it had released earlier.
He did not go into too many details, but indicated that they would make links to competitors in vertical search “significantly more visible” with a “larger space of the Google search result page” dedicated to them, and would include rival logos appearing next to the links, where dynamic text would also be displayed. Also included is an “auction mechanism” with the option to bid for each specific query and “improvements to granularity” of the opt-out feature that is offered to third-party sites. It’s said to ensure that Google can’t retaliate against sites that use it.
Additionally, Google committed to no longer include in its agreements with publishers “any provisions or impose any unwritten obligations that would require publishers to source their requirements for online search advertisements exclusively from Google in relation to queries from EEA users.” The new proposal, Almunia said, “improves the safeguards against possible circumventions.”
The changes are also said to provide guarantees against circumvention with regards to Google’s offer to cease to impose any obligations that prevent advertisers from porting and managing search ad campaigns across its services and competing services.
Finally, Google would be required to have a third party monitor its practices.
Reports have now come out that the Commission has asked Google’s competitors and other third-parties to review the revised proposal. According to Reuters, it has asked 125 companies to provide feedback.
By offering the proposals, Google is hoping to avoid a $5 billion fine. We’ll see where it goes from here.
Image: European Commission Vice President Joaquin Almunia (nuevaeconomiaforum via YouTube)