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The search company could get stuck with a fine of $5 billion if it can't convince the EU to settle

Google may have gotten out of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) antitrust investigation without much of a penalty earlier this year, but the European Commission isn't giving in so easily

European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said that Google's proposal for ending the investigation wasn't going to cut it. 

"I concluded that the proposals that Google sent to us are not enough to overcome our concerns," said Almunia. 

The European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation into Google's search behavior in November 2010.

In May 2012, the European Commission said that Google should submit changes in how its search results are wired. Google said it would in February of this year.

In April, Google submitted a settlement proposal that didn't change the algorithm used to create its search results. Rather, the company opted to clearly label any search results from its own services. Not only that, but in some instances, Google will offer links from rival search engines. 

More specifically, services where Google doesn't make money from search results (like weather and news) would have been labeled as Google services. For places where Google sells ads, links to at least three competitors would've been displayed. For services like Google Shopping, links to rivals would be auctioned.

In addition, the proposal aimed to give websites the option to keep their content from vertical search properties, but stay in general search results. Furthermore, Google wanted to help small businesses move their ad campaigns to other search engines.

While the European Commission initially accepted this proposal, Google rivals like Microsoft weren't happy with the proposal. Microsoft said that Google is a determining factor as to what Europeans search, read and purchase online (about 86 percent of Europeans use Google for search) and that its practices are only benefitting itself; not consumers and fair competitors. 

It was announced in late April that Google competitors had one month to comment on the EU invesitgation, and it looks like Google's rivals voiced their opinions against Google's proposal. 

It's not clear when Google has to respond to the EU's latest decision, but the search company could get stuck with a fine of $5 billion if it can't convince the EU to settle. 

In January of this year, Google managed to escape a two-year FTC investigation with no fines. The investigation looked into Google's possible abuse of search dominance as well by using results to its own advantage.

Source: Reuters

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I'm confused
By spamreader1 on 7/17/2013 2:51:32 PM , Rating: 3
Do people in the EU not have any other search engine to use if they don't like the results that Google provides?

I mean I, 25% understoodd the whole IE thing where this silly ballot thing happened, other than browsers are free, I can see how the tech in them can be used to steer new tech with profitable outcomes, I don't get this at all.

What's next penalizing for providing thier own weather data and not allowing you to view weather data from competing sites within thier site?

RE: I'm confused
By Rukkian on 7/17/2013 3:18:12 PM , Rating: 5
I view this as just a money grab, both from politicians getting "contributions" from competing companies, and from the EU to try and get some money out of another company.

RE: I'm confused
By wookie1 on 7/17/2013 4:50:15 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I think you're correct. The EU has to do 1-2 of these shakedowns every year to keep the money flowing in.

RE: I'm confused
By xytc on 7/18/2013 12:56:18 AM , Rating: 2
What bullshit is this really ? Google is not a public service that means it has no obligations towards any citizen, no one forces you to use Google. Google is a company that does business with other companies the search engine is the product they sell it to other companies.
People use this search engine for free because it works better than others not because someone forces them to use it.
As I've said Google search engine is not a public service but a product of a company that means EU has no right to tell Google how to develop it. It's like EU trying to tell BMW how to design cars or telling Microsoft to use Metro only interface for future OS's.
If EU is so concerned about it why don't they provide a public service search engine who stops them to do that if they wanna help their citizens ?
You can't go to a transport company and force them to transport your citizens for free.

RE: I'm confused
By Strunf on 7/18/2013 7:27:23 AM , Rating: 2
You're right 5 billions is good enough to make things go smoothly throughout the year... seriously the EU has a higher GDP than the US, on this scale of things 5 billions is close to nothing.

RE: I'm confused
By maugrimtr on 7/18/2013 11:32:15 AM , Rating: 2
The EU's GDP was $16.55 Trillion in 2012.

RE: I'm confused
By rountad on 7/18/2013 11:40:00 AM , Rating: 2
$5,000,000,000 here, $5,000,000,000 there. Pretty soon, you're talking about real money.

RE: I'm confused
By drevas3053 on 7/18/2013 11:20:41 PM , Rating: 2
But what was their debt to GDP ratio? Spain, Greece, Italy, austerity measures in England....If it wasn't for Germany you would be in deep trouble. The EU is no better of a political organization than any other Government entity. If you believe that they are then you are naïve. Of course this is protectionism and a money grab. just how often do you see European companies in front of U.S. regulators? Almost never. Draw your own conclusions.

RE: I'm confused
By Strunf on 7/19/2013 4:48:23 AM , Rating: 2
You don't see EU companies in front of the US regulators cause the US is quite protectionist, do I have to remind all the uproar you have in the US each time the Chinese want to buy a US company... and even if you disagree with that tell me the name of a EU company that is dominant in the US.

The European Commission also fines EU companies you just don't hear of it cause it doesn't concern the US, and before you start talking back about the amount check the data, the EU companies are also fined in the millions, as it should be the fines are proportional to the company size.

RE: I'm confused
By BZDTemp on 7/18/2013 3:42:19 AM , Rating: 2
I view this as just a money grab, both from politicians getting "contributions" from competing companies, and from the EU to try and get some money out of another company.

You need to get informed. The EU has strict rules aimed to ensure fair competition and also to protect people from companies abusing market control. This is what's going on and there is no money grabbing.

Silly enough your view is just following the automatic reaction on DT when ever there is mentioning of the EU going after a company. It's like people here thinks the EU is just a small thing run by politicians as bad as those in DC, but that is very far from being the case. First of all the EU is a union of more than a ½ billion citizens and the EU economy is bigger than the US. Secondly while the EU political system isn't perfect there is little corruption compared to most other places.

RE: I'm confused
By Rukkian on 7/18/2013 10:39:45 AM , Rating: 2
I could understand that more if their intial ruling had the fine, but they accepted the settlement until Microsoft "persuaded" them it was not enough. I know little about the EU, I will admit it, and maybe they have absolutely no corruption, and have the perfect society.

From what I have read on this topic, I do not understand the issue, especially if Google is willing to fix it.

RE: I'm confused
By Reclaimer77 on 7/18/2013 1:26:10 PM , Rating: 2
The EU doesn't really want the so-called issues fixed. They just want the money.

They pulled the same stunt with Microsoft remember? So Microsoft added a browser ballot process in Windows. But the EU pulled the "oh that's not good enough" BS, they just wanted the big fine.

RE: I'm confused
By BZDTemp on 7/19/2013 7:57:55 AM , Rating: 2
I'm gonna say it plainly so you can understand. You're an IDIOT.

The EU isn't a person or a small club where such a fine would matter in the budget. The EU is a ½ billion people so the fines given to Microsoft means nothing what matters is that free and fair competition is ensured. This is no different than US vs. Microsoft back in the day.

RE: I'm confused
By A11 on 7/21/2013 11:04:54 AM , Rating: 2
You can save yourself the effort of explaning what's really going on to Americans.

All they want to see is how the evil EU is stealing money from innocent American companies while ignoring the fact that it's pretty much always complaints about business practices made by other American companies which starts the investigations.

RE: I'm confused
By TSS on 7/17/2013 7:24:28 PM , Rating: 4
It's not that the EU citizens aren't happy with google.

On the contrary, they've been so happy with google that basically all local language search engines have died out. Their results just wheren't relevant compared to what google brings to the table.

That's lead to a vicious cycle though. People will just continue to use google as long as it meets there needs. They will not seek out other search engines that might give better results after a few more years of development. Which in turn leads to no investment into search engines as it's not profitable.

That's more or less what the EU is trying to force, exposing multiple search engine options to the general public. Then, if you build one better then google, it'll get noticed and thus be financially viable and thus more effort will be put into innovation.

For all of the EU bashing that goes on (and belive you me, there's plenty of that to go around here in europe as well), the EU commission does do a few good things. And the $5 billion mark, well, a big company deserves a big fine. They're not gonna feel a couple million.

RE: I'm confused
By chimto on 7/17/2013 8:11:43 PM , Rating: 2
Your description of the situation sounds as if the EU is fining google just because they have a large market share.

I don't quite understand what google is doing that might deserve a $5 billion dollar fine and I don't know all the details of the investigation. But if the EU is just handing down fines to companies that are large or have large market share for no reason other than the fact that they are large companies, to me that seems plain wrong.

RE: I'm confused
By Alexvrb on 7/17/2013 8:39:16 PM , Rating: 2
Your description of the situation sounds as if the EU is fining google just because they have a large market share.
Yeah, well the truth ain't always pretty.

RE: I'm confused
By Azethoth on 7/17/2013 9:24:14 PM , Rating: 2
IANAL, but I believe the origins of this batch of suits were from companies similar to ehow and and similar SEO schemes.

They add nothing to your google search except crappy links to their crap site that if you click on it, gives you a bunch of useless crap + the ads they then make money off of.

Rightfully Google punishes these useless parasites in their search algorithm. In turn this is considered unfair.

As a google search user though I do not care, I do not want to see that crap and so I use some plugins to wipe the crap away.

Meanwhile, they get butt hurt when the algorithm roots them out and go cry to the EU and FTC. Then MS and other big companies fund their crying and we end up with Google getting extorted for no good reason.

RE: I'm confused
By Azethoth on 7/17/2013 9:27:13 PM , Rating: 2
Damn damn damn. I could have worked crapnado into that post.

RE: I'm confused
By Reclaimer77 on 7/17/2013 8:15:12 PM , Rating: 2
And the $5 billion mark, well, a big company deserves a big fine.

Deserves? For doing what?

In your own words Google's "crime" here is doing a good job. Such that, people willingly and knowingly sought out their service over others.

Wow man, that's the crime of the century right there! Fine them BILLIONS!?

That's more or less what the EU is trying to force, exposing multiple search engine options to the general public.

Uhh how is the EU doing that here? Are they going to use this money to fund websearch startups? Are they doing to use it to advertise for other search engines? Hire more developers?

The answer to these questions is NO. They are keeping it, it's going straight into the EU's shakedown coffers. This is NOT about the "general public".

RE: I'm confused
By Nephiorim on 7/18/2013 3:50:36 AM , Rating: 2
As soon as a company enters monopoly territory they're under scrutiny by the EU. Keep in mind, the EU wanted to agree to the earlier deal, but after bitching by other companies such as Microsoft for being unfair they took another look. Last I checked Microsoft was American as well by the way. You're calling this a shakedown, I'm calling it American companies abusing yet another legal system to stifle innovation and hurt each other. Only difference is this time they crossed the pond to do it.

In addition it's not about Google obtaining such a market share, it's what they do when they have it. Apparently they manipulated search results, thereby abusing the monopoly position they're in. This leads, or has led, to an unhealthy market and yes us Europeans are fan of heavy markets and feel at least some regulation should be in place for this to happen. Here's probably where we have a difference in ideology so that's where the whole argument will stall most likely, but let's see where we end up shall we? :)

RE: I'm confused
By Nephiorim on 7/18/2013 3:54:44 AM , Rating: 2
I would also like to add that the money flows into EU funds yes. It would cost way more to find out which individual persons were actually harmed by these practices so in general they flow into the big pot so every citizen in the EU gets to pay slightly less taxes. More efficient way of doing it I suppose, but not the fairest :)

RE: I'm confused
By Strunf on 7/18/2013 7:41:38 AM , Rating: 2
You miss the point, the fact is that in the EU companies can be fined up to 10% of their revenue, if a company is found guilty of something it's only natural that they pay in proportion to their size if that wasn't the case then the law would mean nothing for big companies.

RE: I'm confused
By spamreader1 on 7/18/2013 9:35:34 AM , Rating: 2
That at least has me less confused, thanks. I don't necissarily agree with the primise that all newer potentially better search engines are being muscled out without proof should constitute penalizing successfull companies. Then again I'm niether a lawyer, nor even a business major so I'm sure my understanding of such situations is quite limited.

RE: I'm confused
By ven1ger on 7/18/2013 3:39:23 PM , Rating: 2
In another blog:

"South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission watchdog has acquitted Google of anti-competitive charges following a two-year-long investigation, Yonhap News reports.
The FTC also reportedly arrived at its decision after concluding that mobile users can “easily” find alternatives to Google’s search engine."

On that basis, I guess EU is looking out for the users who are too lazy to find alternatives...sigh.

RE: I'm confused
By Nephiorim on 7/20/2013 4:20:49 AM , Rating: 2
Well if the South Koreans are doing it surely we must follow! What use is having a critical view/mind of our own? K-pop for everyone!

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