Google offers to settle EU antitrust probe

Summary:Google has offered European antitrust regulators concessions with an eye to settle an ongoing probe over allegations the company 'cooked' search results.

Search behemoth Google offered on Monday to settle an ongoing European antitrust investigation in a bid to prevent it from being served with huge fines and restrictions on its business practices in Europe.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has sent a letter to E.U. Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, according to a Commission spokesperson, in which Schmidt offered a deal which could prevent a fully-fledged antitrust investigation.

The letter addressed the "four areas the European Commission described" last month --- which can be found here.

The details of the letter were not open for disclosure, but a spokesperson said it "will now analyse its content."

A Google spokesperson confirmed to ZDNet the search giant had made a "proposal" to address the European Commission's concerns, and will "continue to work co-operatively with the Commission."

Almunia said in May during a midday briefing that the Commission had asked Google to "make concessions" and offer a settlement bid to prevent an all-out antitrust investigation. If Google failed to adjust its business practices, a formal antitrust complaint would be sent to the company.

Back in 2010, regulators on both sides of the Atlantic began investigating the company based on claims from rival firms that Google was discriminating them in the online advertising space.

Not limited to Europe, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission also began an investigation, while Argentinian and South Korean authorities are also looking into how Google operates with an eye on the possibility of drawing up charges. 

If Google concedes defeat and the European Commission allows Google to successfully settle, it's an admission of guilt. However, it does mean that Google would avoid an actual "guilty" verdict, which could cause business-restricting headaches for the company. 

Should the settlement offer fail, Google would face a fine up to $3.8 billion --- a maximum of 10 percent of its $37.9 billion global revenue last year. 

Update (12:05 p.m.): added remarks from a Commission spokesperson.

Related:

Topics: Google, EU

About

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

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