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September 9, 2014

EU rivals not happy with Google’s ‘dominance’ concessions

Ongoing probe doubtful to be settled soon as Google's offer is dismissed.

By Ben Sullivan

Google has to go back to the drawing board with its concessions to settle the probe into its European internet search dominance after rivals dismissed its current offer.

The European Commission announced the fresh stalemate on Monday, and plans to have the four-year-old case wrapped up by the end of summer, as was originally hoped for by Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, look doubtful.

Google has now changed its concession proposal three times, bowing under pressure from Microsoft, European publishers, and other internet competitors across Europe. They complained to the European Commission about Google’s practices which they said give the web giant an unfair advantage when it comes to online search results and online advertising.

Google currently has more than an 80% market share in Internet search and advertising across Europe.
Google spokesman Al Verney address the situation on a Google blog post. He said: "This weekend some of Europe’s biggest publishers are running a newspaper ad arguing that Google is too dominant and that we favour our own products – like Maps, YouTube and Google Shopping – in our search results.

"Given the serious nature of these allegations, I wanted to ensure that people have the facts so they can judge the merits of the case themselves."

Verney then put forward arguments claiming to show how, whilst Google is ‘successful’ in Europe, Google is not the "gateway to the Internet" as the publishers suggest.

Verney said: "Think about how people use the web today. To get news, you’ll probably go direct to your favorite news site. It’s why newspapers like Bild, Le Monde and the Financial Times get most of their online traffic directly (less than 15% comes from Google). Or you might follow what other people are reading on Twitter.

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"To book a flight or buy a camera for your next holiday, you’re as likely go to a site like Expedia or Amazon as you are Google."
FairSearch, an internet lobby group with members including Nokia, Microsoft, and TripAdvisor, said that Google’s proposed concessions are "worse than nothing".

The Open Internet Project, a group of European digital companies, and European politicians, said that a settlement "would entrench Google’s dominance and do little to curb the company’s abuses."

Christoph Keese, executive VP at Axel Spriner, said: "If this settlement were to happen, it would actually make matters worse," as it would show Google that it doesn’t have to do a lot to fight off attacks to its dominance.

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