Another day, another EU, Google settlement attempt: Third time's the charm?

Summary:From the "here we go again" department. Google's third attempt to settle with European antitrust regulators might just be enough to appease the Brussels-based bureaucrats.

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(Credit: Google/Connie Zhou)

Google's third attempt to ease relations with the European Union after allegations it abused its search market dominance might just be enough to avoid a massive antitrust fine in the region.

According to multiple sources speaking to Reuters, the three-year investigation may becoming to a close after the latest round of concessions submitted by the search giant were reportedly approved on first pass by regulators in the 28 member state bloc.

A settlement would see Google avoiding a fine of up to $5 billion, as much as 10 percent of its annual global turnover in 2010-2011.

It's the third pass after an unnamed official cited European Competition Commission Joaquin Almunia as saying it was "much better." Previously, he explained  he was "not satisfied" with Google's second response  to the investigation.

Google faced some level of embarrassment in its first round when it said it had done a "pretty good job" to appease European regulators . Except, officials weren't having any of it. Responding a month later , Almunia said the proposals were "not enough."

On the second round, the search giant new submitted proposals that would offer new competition links, which appear under the paid-for "sponsored" search results. A subtle yet important change, larger text and icons would have allowed users to check results from rival search engines and services.

But according to rivals, who were given the blueprints of how Google might look in a post-antitrust Europe, they were unhappy with the proposals and said urged the European Commission to take the harshest measures possible.

But European officials remained reluctant to fine the Silicon Valley giant, instead opting to settle. However, it takes two to tango and Google continued to push European officials to the limits.

Almunia attempted to settle under an Article 9 procedure , which allows a company to remedy problems flagged by the competition watchdog. But after more than a year of to-ing and fro-ing between the search giant and the executive body, little actionable outcome has come to fruition. 

It's not clear what has changed in the third round. However, the Reuters story said EU regulators will not seek further feedback from rivals, who previously dismissed Google's efforts to settle.

According to another unnamed official, the EU now knows what Google needs to do to finalize any deal after receiving feedback from two prior market tests.

Topics: Google, EU

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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