EU regulators are seeking concessions from Google that can be applied worldwide to resolve concerns about its business practices, the EU's antitrust chief said on Wednesday, raising the stakes in forthcoming settlement talks.
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia was speaking the day after the European Commission said it had reached "a level of good understanding" with the provider of the world's most popular search engine that would form the basis for discussions.
Google has been accused of abusing its dominant market position, and the Commission said in May it had concerns over its alleged anti-competitive behavior. The Commission typically looks for concessions that would benefit European consumers, but has on occasions asked for remedies with a broader scope.
"We will look for worldwide solutions, it will not be very useful to get European-wide solutions," Almunia told a news conference. "We need worldwide solutions."
Asked to comment on Almunia's remarks, Google spokesman Al Verney said: "We are continuing to work cooperatively with the European Commission."
The EU watchdog said Google's search results may unfairly favor other Google services over its rivals and may have copied material from other websites, such as travel and restaurant reviews, without permission.
Google — to comply with EU demands — revised initial proposals to resolve the dispute to cover all platforms, including computers, tablets and mobile devices, someone familiar with the case told Reuters.
Regulators will discuss the technical details of Google's proposals in the coming weeks, but Almunia said he had not set a deadline for a decision.
If Google succeeds in convincing Almunia to accept its proposals, it would avoid a possible fine of up to $4 billion - 10 percent of Google's annual revenues.
A settlement would also free it from a lengthy battle with the regulator.
Microsoft's strategy of challenging the Commission over an antitrust ruling led to a case that lasted a decade and cost it more than a billion euros in fines.
If Google comes up with a globally applicable solution to the Commission's concerns, this could form a template for regulators in other countries, including the United States, which is also investigating Google.
Almunia said other parts of Google's business could still come under scrutiny.
"We have not opened any other investigations, but I don't exclude that in the future other aspects of Google activity can also follow the path of the investigation we launched in 2010," he said.
© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.