EU allude to a settlement deal with Google over anti-trust

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The European Commission has indicated that new concessions offered by Google could end its long-running anti-trust investigation against the search giant. Few details about the concessions were released.

EU regulators have been investigating Google’s business practices since Nov. 2010, following allegations from more than a dozen companies, including Microsoft and price comparison site Foundem that the company had abused its dominant position in online search. Google issued its response in July 2012 and has long denied any wrongdoing.

“We have reached a key moment in this case. Now with significant improvements on the table, I think we have the possibility to work again,” competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia told the European Parliament.

In April Google suggested a package of concessions, including an offer to label its own services and to make it easier for people to use rival advertising services.

The deal was rejected by rivals, who said it did not go far enough.

In a statement on Tuesday, Google’s general counsel Kent Walker said: “Given the feedback the European Commission received on our first proposal, they have insisted on further, significant changes to the way we display search results.”

“We’ve made the difficult decision to agree to their requirements in the interests of reaching a settlement.”

Among the concessions, Almunia said Google has agreed – for certain categories – to make links to its rivals more prominent.

Google has also agreed to make it easier for rival services to opt out of having their content used on Google’s services without the fear of having all links pulled from Google search results (which Yelp complained about in 2011).

Thomas Vinje, legal counsel for the group, said in a statement: “It is essential that Google applies the same rules to its own services as it does to others when it returns and displays search results.”

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