updated 05:34 pm EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
Proposal, if accepted, will likely lead to no fine paid by search engine
In response to the antitrust investigation by the European Commission, Google has formally submitted a proposal to the agency -- attempting to end a two-year investigation. The proposal, if accepted, will reportedly see Google clearly marking on search results what is a Google product, and impose fewer restrictions on advertisers. Google's proposal includes no fine paid to the Commission for its prior bad behavior.
An EC competition policy spokesman wrote in a statement that "in the last few weeks, the Commission completed its preliminary assessment, formally setting out its concerns. On this basis, Google then made a formal submission of commitments to the Commission. We are now preparing the launch of a market test to seek feedback from market players, including complainants, on these commitment proposals." Colombani did not provide details of either Google's offering, or the Commission's response.
Competion Commissioner Joaquin Almunia believes any agreement reached will be a contract of behavior and not a simple written agreement such as that hammered out with the US Federal Trade Commission. Almunia said that he is "trying to reach a decision that will include legally-binding commitments based on the Google proposal."
One of the complainants against Google, Hotmaps, will help evaluate Google's proposal. CEO Michael Weber said of the proposal that Hotmaps "will actively partake in the market testing of Google's concessions, and only accept a settlement if competition is fully restored in a future-proof manner."
Google has claimed to continue to work "cooperatively" with the European investigative commission. Google is staring down a fine of up to 10 percent of its global income if found to be in violation of EU antitrust laws -- a penalty that has been estimated to be as high as $3.79 billion.
Another of the complainants, British price-comparison site Foundem, doubted that Google's proposal would change anything. Foundem Chief Executive Shivaun Raff said that he would "withhold judgment on Google's proposals until we have seen them, but everything we have learned about Google makes us skeptical that it would volunteer truly effective remedies until it has been formally charged with infringement."