Google offers to settle EU antitrust probe

Search behemoth Google today offered 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.

(Credit: Google)

Google chairman Eric Schmidt sent a letter to EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, according to a commission spokesperson, in which he offered a deal that 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 that it "will now analyse its content".

A Google spokesperson confirmed to CNET that the search giant made a "proposal" to address the European Commission's concerns, and will "continue to work cooperatively with the commission".

Almunia said in May during a 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 against them in the online advertising space.

Not limited to Europe, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also began an investigation, while Argentinean and South Korean authorities are also looking into how Google operates, and have reportedly considered drawing up charges.

If Google concedes defeat, and the European Commission allows Google to successfully settle, it will be an admission of guilt. However, it does mean that Google would avoid an actual "guilty" verdict.

Should the settlement offer fail, Google will face a fine of up to US$3.8 billion — 10 per cent of its US$37.9 billion global revenue last year.


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