EU antitrust regulators may reopen Google case on search-engine practices

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The European Union antitrust regulators prepare to step up investigations into Google Inc. on several fronts, including also the possibility of reconsidering the settlement proposed in February 2014 over Google’s search practices, in particular about the possible abuse of its dominant position in online search in Europe. In fact, the Commission is likely to revise some terms of this settlement, according to an anonymous source aware of the situation.

The antitrust enquiry is only one of the issues currently faced by Google. The U.S. Firm has also to deal with concerns from European legislators about other areas, such as copyright and privacy, shown by the latest ECJ ruling on the “right to be forgotten”. Some of these concerns derived in part from a EU distrust vis-à-vis U.S. tech firms in general, following last year’s NSA scandal..

Even though Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia had already insisted many times that Google’s commitments were enough to meet his agency’s concerns over competition, some suggest that there may be a revision of the remedy imposed on Google with respect to the display of rivals’ results and auctioning arrangements. Some Commissioners would like to deepen the surveys on the antitrust case also considering the intense opposition to the Commission’s proposed search settlement with Google, both from MEPs and other companies. The concerns raised relate to the possible preferential treatment of Google’s services beyond their visibility on the search-results page, together with an auction system designed to allow rivals to bid for a better placement on the page. A spokesman for the U.S. tech firm denies the opposition’s grounds and has declared that significant changes have been made to address the Commission’s concerns, with a great increase of the visibility of rival services.

In the meanwhile, Google is facing another investigation by European authorities over Android smartphone operative system.The allegations on Android include the licensing of Android software “below cost”, according to the documents, and “potential requests by Google to cancel and/or delay the launch of smartphone devices” based on competing operating systems or shipped with rival mobile services. It is not yet a formal investigation, but it might become soon, according to the anonymous source.

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