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Google prepared to settle EU dispute

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Addressing the European Commission’s findings

Google could offer the EU a solution to its ongoing antitrust investigation by agreeing to change the way its own sites are listed against those of competitors.

Its response comes just a few weeks after European Commission vice president Joaquin Almunia outlined four key ways in which Google could have been favouring itself too heavily against competitors.

Google is believed to be willing to address the problem areas found in Almunia’s report, the first of which is the way Google indexes third-party content and allegedly uses this to its own advantage. It is also accused of enforcing exclusive agreements with AdWords users that prevent them from using other advertising programmes such as Microsoft adCenter, and making it too technically difficult for companies to transfer ad campaigns between AdWords and other platforms.

However, the EU’s main gripe seems to be with the way Google includes its money-making vertical search services such as maps, shopping and images far more prominently than similar tools, giving it an unfair advantage and stifling the competitive market.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, contacted Almunia to suggest some resolution to these issues, although it is not yet clear what the content of his proposal was.

Competitors frustrated by Google dominance

It is generally accepted that three of the four issues can be resolved relatively simply, appeasing those companies backing the EU. Microsoft search engine Bing was among them, having grown impatient with Google’s tactics in Europe, where they enjoy over 90 per cent of the search engine market.

Google’s 2011 acquisition of Zagat, the restaurant review site, could partially solve the issue of third party content, as Zagat reviews are now of course legitimate Google currency, while the problems surrounding AdWords can be rectified by simply agreeing on a change of stance.

The big sticking point could be the vertical search services. In light of the Android 4.1 update, which focused its search results on information cards and Knowledge Graph, it seems Google is actually moving towards the idea of using their own features rather than cutting them back.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: “Google needed to address this issue and it looks as though it has finally come to a decision. Clearly, we need to know the exact nature of this compromise before we can get a sense of how threatened it feels by the EU’s findings, but it is clear that some concessions will have to be made.”

Written by James Riches

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