EU’s Probe Into Google’s Search & Advertising Practices Could Be Resolved After The Summer

The European Union’s two-year long antitrust probe into Google’s search practices may be resolved after this summer, according to a Reuters report. The news agency quotes EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, telling a conference today: “We can reach an agreement after the summer break. We can envisage this as a possible deadline.”

Almunia reportedly said the deadline is conditional on regulators and rivals agreeing to concessions presented to the EU by Google early this month. Reuters notes that the Commission is closed for most of August for its summer break — suggesting September could be a possible timeframe for the investigation to be settled.

Google’s search and advertising processes are under investigation in the EU over concerns that Google links differently to its own vertical services — thereby disadvantaging its competitors. EU regulators are also worried about Google copying content, such as travel reviews, from “competing vertical search services” and using it in its own offerings. On the advertising side, the fear is that Google is “shutting out competing providers of search advertising intermediation services” and making it too hard for advertisers to port their campaigns to other services.

In the US, Google faced a similar probe by the FTC but settled that investigation last month by agreeing to make two voluntary product changes — namely:

  • More choice for websites: Websites can already opt out of Google Search, and they can now remove content (for example reviews) from specialized search results pages, such as local, travel, and shopping.
  • More ad campaign control: Advertisers can already export their ad campaigns from Google AdWords. They will now be able to mix and copy ad campaign data within third-party services that use our AdWords API.

In the EU, Google submitted detailed proposals to the regulator aimed at resolving the investigation at the start of this month. These proposals have not been published — the EU declined to comment beyond confirming it had received and was analysing the proposals — but Reuters cites people close to the matter who said Google has offered to label its own services in search results to differentiate them from rival services, and also to impose fewer restrictions on advertisers.

Asked for comment, a Google spokesperson provided TechCrunch with the following emailed statement: “We continue to work co-operatively with the European Commission.”