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Google to make ‘significant’ changes to avoid EU fine

Google to make ‘significant’ changes to avoid EU fine
Google has promised to make “significant” changes to how rivals appear in search results in an attempt to avoid a multi-billion euro fine.

The latest changes should be sufficient to end a three-year investigation into the search company, the EU’s competition commissioner said. Google had been accused of giving favourable treatment to its own products in search results. The company said it looked forward to resolving the matter.

In a news conference, European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said he would not seek feedback on the deal from Google’s rivals before it was formalised. “I consider at this point that we don’t need a market test,” he told reporters.   The decision has prompted criticism from lobby groups, including the Microsoft-backed Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (Icomp). “A settlement without third party review is a massive failure,” the group said. “We need time and opportunity to ensure full technical assessment of how effective the proposed remedies would be.”

Google argued that its proposals were fair and wide-reaching. “We will be making significant changes to the way Google operates in Europe,” said Google lawyer Kent Walker. “We have been working with the European Commission to address issues they raised.”

The move marks the third time Google has offered changes and concessions to its services in order to satisfy the EU’s concerns.

Previous offers – such as displaying logos to denote when a Google product was being promoted – were not deemed to go far enough.   The long-running and precedent-setting case arose when a group of 18 companies, including Microsoft and TripAdvisor, argued that Google had abused its position as the dominant search engine.

According to web metric company Comscore, Google has about a 75% share of the web search market in Europe. In a statement, the European Commission said Google had now agreed to offer “comparable” treatment to its rivals.