European Union antitrust officials have declared that Google's offer to modify its search results do not go far enough to settle complaints about anti-competitive
behavior. A change of heart from what was said in October
, the decision by the European Commission (EC) comes with a warning that it is short of time to offer a better solution, and could end up receiving fines of up to $5 billion.
The three-year investigation over Google's prioritization of its own services over competitors led to the search giant submitting proposals
for changes to its search results. After initially failing to appease the concerns of competitors, a second set
of proposals were submitted, including offers to show rival site logos next to links from competing services, and an auction mechanism for competitors to bid for specific queries. It initially appeared that the proposals were accepted, with EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia issuing a statement of approval, though this is no longer the case.
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia
Almunia advised "The latest proposals are not acceptable in the sense that they are not proposals that can eliminate our concerns regarding competition," reports Reuters
. Concerns over "vertical searches," such as those for restaurant listings, were apparently not suitably appeased in the proposals. When asked about possible sanctions against Google, Almunia revealed that there wouldn't be at the moment and that "the ball is still in Google's court," but warned that the EC will soon have to make a decision, something expected to take place in the spring.
Google has defended its second offer, with spokesperson Al Verney declaring "We've made significant changes to address the European Commission's concerns, greatly increasing the visibility of rival searches and addressing other specific issues." David Wood, the legal counsel for lobbyist group ICOMP, claims "It is now vital that the Commission use this opportunity to enforce the competition rules and ensure that a level playing field is restored, not only for those companies that have been harmed, but also to support consumer choice and the wider European economy."