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European Commission to close Google antitrust case this summer

End of piece of string in sight
Tue May 20 2014, 17:04
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JOAQUIN ALMUNIA, European Commission (EC) VP in charge of competition, is drawing to the end of his antitrust investigation of Google and is preparing to announce his conclusions this summer.

Almunia has been chewing on Google for some time, and the end of his investigation has been a long time coming.

Today in a speech he said that the time for study was almost over and that the next stage will be action.

The first stage of his end game is to send letters to 19 companies that submitted complaints about the internet search and advertising outfit.

Almunia admitted that Google is a complex company to deal with, and the case is a long running one, and he said that a full study would require more than one investigation. However, he is limited to competition cases. He added that he has received missives from French and German ministers that fancy a hardline response.

"Google has many activities that need to be monitored closely. There are discussions on intellectual property rights and taxation... and antitrust. We are looking at a lot of things... You cannot take up all complaints in one investigation," he said.

Almunia said that the EC will write to 19 companies that have complained about Google. Should these companies respond, their views will be put to Almunia and he will consider them. He said that once these were in there will be a period of reflection, followed by a decision. "I think that after the summer we should be in a position to close the investigation," he said.

The EC has been investigating Google for alleged antitrust activities and for potentially stepping on the competition since 2010. The last major update we heard was that Google had offered some concessions that Almunia held in reasonably high esteem.

"I believe that the new proposal obtained from Google after long and difficult talks can now address the Commission's concerns. Without preventing Google from improving its own services, it provides users with real choice between competing services presented in a comparable way; it is then up to them to choose the best alternative. This way, both Google and its rivals will be able and encouraged to innovate and improve their offerings," he said in February.

"Turning this proposal into a legally binding obligation for Google would ensure that competitive conditions are both restored quickly and maintained over the next years."

Then, as now. Almunia promised to run the suggestions through the complaining rivals, and Google promised that it would continue to work with the EC toward a satisfactory conclusion.

Google said in a statement, "We will be making significant changes to the way Google operates in Europe. We have been working with the European Commission to address issues they raised and look forward to resolving this matter." µ


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