Google digs in heels over EU antitrust ultimatum

Google has asked for a precise list of the laws the European Commission thinks it has broken in response to a deadline given by regulators, chairman Eric Schmidt has said while maintaining the company has done nothing wrong
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Google has responded to an antitrust ultimatum from European regulators by saying it is willing to talk, but it doesn't see where it is going wrong in its treatment of rivals in search results.

Speaking at a Google event on Wednesday, chairman Eric Schmidt maintained that the company believes it has not violated the EU's competition regulations. He said it has sent a letter requesting a precise list of the laws involved from the European Commission and a description of how Google is supposed to have broken those laws.

"Give us the data, give us the precise example of the precise problem, and we will understand that," Schmidt told an audience at the Big Tent event. "We don't know what that is." 

The Commission probe started in 2010 after it received allegations of anti-competitive practices brought by price-comparison sites such as the UK's Foundem. Officials spent two years gathering evidence and collating more complaints, including one from Microsoft's Ciao.

On Monday, EU regulators sent Google a letter describing its four areas of concern, asking the company to deliver proposed remedies "in a matter of weeks". If not, they will push forward with formal proceedings, which could eventually lead to fines and imposed remedies, according to competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

The four areas of concern are: whether Google gives preferential treatment to its own search results; whether it copies content from other search providers; whether Google's agreements with advertisers shut out competitors; and whether Google restricts developers by preventing them from offering tools to allow the transfer of ad campaigns from AdWords to other search advertising platforms.

Schmidt said Google has arranged a series of new meetings to discuss its legal questions with the Commission.

"[Almunia's] letter is very clear that he is encouraging us to have a conversation with them. We completely agree," he said. "We're happy to talk to them."

However, he remained unwilling to reveal more about how Google is approaching the discussions.

"Until they are precise over what areas of the law in their view we have violated, it would be very difficult for me to speculate on the outcome," he added.

ZDNet UK understands that the Commission feels it has been clear about its objections in its letter to Google and believes it is now for the search company to come up with solutions.

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