Early last week, word got out that the European Union had accepted a proposed settlement put forward by Google regarding the EU's ongoing investigation into Google's search practices. Today, the European Commission is inviting Google competitors to offer feedback on the proposed terms of the settlement.
In a statement released today European Commission invited comments from "interested parties" on Google's plans to address concerns that it is abusing its dominant position in the markets for web search and online search advertising. Those interested in providing feedback have one month to do so. The Commission says it will take comments into account in its analysis of Google's proposed commitments.
The EU's antitrust probe began almost two years ago, upon receipt of complaint that Google was unfairly skewing search results. Google competitors accused the Mountain View-based company of promoting its own services over competing websites. Google's proposal would see it label search results that link to its own services in areas and separate these promoted links from other results. In addition the company would also display three links to rival specialized search services close to its own services. Websites will also have the opportunity to opt-out from the use of their content in Google's specialized search services without risking the ranking of their websites in general results. What's more, Google will no longer require publishers to source online search advertisements exclusively from Google. The search giant must also not prevent advertisers from managing search advertising campaigns across competing advertising platforms.
Google would be bound by the settlement terms for five years but would face no fines from the EU unless it breaches the terms of the agreement, of course. As was pointed out last week, the European Commission can go ahead with the settlement even if Google competitors complain that it is unfair. If the Commission concludes that Google's proposal addresses its competition concerns, it may decide to make them legally binding regardless of negative feedback. However, that then raises the possibility of an appeal.