Google has offered some concessions to settle claims that it unfairly restricts search competition in Europe — but the man in charge of competition policy there says Google hasn’t gone far enough yet and could face penalties.
Joaquin Almunia, the European Competition commissioner, spoke about Google as part of an address at Fordham University in New York.
He discussed ongoing negotiations with Google aimed to settle claims that it takes advantage of its dominance in the search market to unfair penalize rival firms in its rankings.
Almunia revealed that Google has made specific proposals to change its behavior and that his staff are discovering the technical details. However, he warned that “We are not there [at a solution] yet, and it must be clear that – in the absence of satisfactory proposals in the short term – I will be obliged to continue with our formal proceedings.”
While that’s carefully chosen language, in diplomatic terms it’s a public warning to Google that it needs to come up with some more pleasing ideas if it hopes to avoid regulatory action. In theory Google could be fined up to 10 percent of its worldwide annual revenues, meaning more than $3.5 billion.
The Guardian notes that there’s no sign yet of Google trying out any changes to its behavior that might, for example, mean competitors to Google’s Shopping tool appear higher in rankings.
Almunia also addressed Microsoft’s recent admission that it failed to include the browser choice screen (in which users must actively decide what browsers to install when starting up Windows for the first time) with some versions of Windows 7.
He said the policy of reaching agreements such as the browser choice screen are usually a good alternative to legal action, but that “the policy can only work if [companies] translate their words into action.”