The shroud of secrecy is starting to lift on Google's commitment proposals addressing competition problems on the internet search engine market. The European Commission has completed its examination of the proposals and is preparing to submit them to a market test.

"At the end of January, Google submitted detailed proposals to the Commission in an effort to address its concerns," said the spokesman for Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, on 12 April. "In the past few weeks, the Commission wrapped up its preliminary assessment formally setting out its concerns. On this basis, Google then made a formal submission of commitments. We are now preparing to launch a market test to seek feedback from market players, including the complainants, on these commitment proposals," he added.

In November 2010, the Commission opened an investigation into Google's practices (the firm holds 90% of the search engine market in Europe) that allegedly give precedence to its own services to the detriment of those of its competitors.

Four subjects preoccupy the executive: the preferential treatment of Google's vertical search services specialised in a given area (travel or restaurants); the copying of content such as users' comments from competitors' vertical search services; the exclusivity agreements Google imposes on its advertising partners; and the portability of the Google adWords advertising platform.

Google maintains that there is no abuse of dominant position since it does not foreclose the market, as evidenced by the existence of competitors.

It also states that the internet sector makes such abuse impossible. Google claims that offering a better service than other companies in the sector is not a violation of competition rules. In passing, it impugns the impartiality of its opponents, saying they are all more or less tied to its major rival Microsoft.

Google is nevertheless willing to make concessions to avoid a fine of 5% of its turnover, which would come to several hundred million euro, but not to change the algorithm of its search engines. The commitment proposals, which will be binding for a duration still to be determined (three to five years) address this priority.


It was already known that Google had agreed to label its own results - for travel searches, for example - in order to distinguish them from those of other online services providers. But apparently this marking varies depending on the profits generated by the...

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