Last month, the EU finally released a public document discussing Google’s proposal to end a lengthy antitrust investigation. With the document, the Commission began seeking feedback on the commitments Google offered to address concerns. Unsurprisingly, the feedback has included demands from some that Google do more.
Here is the list of Google’s proposals, as shared in the EU’s announcement:
Google offers for a period of 5 years to:
(i) – label promoted links to its own specialised search services so that users can distinguish them from natural web search results,
– clearly separate these promoted links from other web search results by clear graphical features (such as a frame), and
– display links to three rival specialised search services close to its own services, in a place that is clearly visible to users,
(ii) – offer all websites the option to opt-out from the use of all their content in Google’s specialised search services, while ensuring that any opt-out does not unduly affect the ranking of those web sites in Google’s general web search results,
– offer all specialised search web sites that focus on product search or local search the option to mark certain categories of information in such a way that such information is not indexed or used by Google,
– provide newspaper publishers with a mechanism allowing them to control on a web page per web page basis the display of their content in Google News,
(iii) no longer include in its agreements with publishers any written or unwritten obligations that would require them to source online search advertisements exclusively from Google, and
(iv) no longer impose obligations that would prevent advertisers from managing search advertising campaigns across competing advertising platforms.
A third party would be required to monitor Google’s implementation of its commitments.
It was clear from the beginning that competitors did not think these went far enough, though they did go further than Google’s actions settling a similar investigation in the U.S.
Reuters now reports that EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the commission will press Google for further concessions, though the report does not get into specifics. It does say that Almunia said “Google would almost certainly be asked to improve its proposals.” Foo Yun Chee writes:
The EU competition authority initially gave complainants until May 26 to comment, but later extended the deadline to June 27 following pressure from the companies.
“After, we will analyse the responses we have received… almost 100 percent we will ask Google: you should improve your proposals,” Almunia told lawmakers during a Tuesday hearing at the European Parliament.
Meanwhile, reports have recently emerged that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has been mulling opening up a new probe, this time into Google’s display advertising business.