EU regulators warm up to Google's antitrust concessions

Summary:Google and the EU are closer to settling an ongoing antitrust case that could see the search giant avoid hefty fines in the region.

Google and EU antitrust regulators have agreed on the "outlines of a settlement" that could see the search giant avoid a fine that could set it back billions of dollars, says the Financial Times of London.

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Only days after the EU wanted search -- and every other Google platform, mobile or otherwise -- included in the deal, Google was quick to amend its offer and include its non-desktop platforms in the proposed settlement .

Not doing so would have threatened the potential settlement and likely push the EU into offering its own full force of the law.

"The breakthrough came after Google said it would in principle extend the remedies it had offered to make for PC-based search to cover mobile search services too," the newspaper said, showing Google's willingness to appease European authorities in Brussels; a move not seen in at least my living memory. 

There's still a distance to go before the deal can be finalized, but should Google play it straight and not antagonize EU authorities any further, a final settlement could be agreed upon by the end of the month.

But the details of the settlement are not yet known. 

There are four areas of conflict rubbing European regulators up the wrong way -- which can be found here -- following a stern letter of objections from EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt earlier this year.

The details of the letter were also not disclosed, but Schmidt replied promptly addressing such concerns , making headway with the Brussels bureaucrat.

Almunia is thought to have agreed that Google's concessions were enough to push past a full-blown antitrust investigation -- which Google could be fined up to 10 percent of its global annual turnover, close to $4 billion -- but will likely instead hand down an offer that will force the search giant into complying with EU law in future, along with other business restrictions. 

Google reiterated its previous statement, not confirming the report, saying: "We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission."

An EU spokesperson for competition policy said the regulators have "reached a good level of understanding with Google based on its proposals," and noted that discussions "at technical level" will soon be held. 

"Don't be evil;" Google's motto back in the day of search innocence. Feel free to back that up with a pre-charge "guilty" plea. 

Topics: EU, Google

About

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

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