The amicable settlement the European Commission hopes to reach with Google over accusations of abuse of its dominant position on the European search engine market will not be enough - a harder line is required, say eleven directors of companies competing with the Mountain View-based firm. They belong to the FairSearch coalition, which is behind several complaints about Google.

On 21 March, the directors sent an open letter to Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. Signatories include the price comparison site Foundem, online travel agents TripAdvisor and Expedia, online boutiques Twenga (France) and Visual Meta (Germany), map sites such as Streetmap, Hot Map and Euro-cities, and three German associations of publishing groups. Significantly, Microsoft has for once not backed its colleagues at FairSearch. Its reticence could be explained by the recent fine of 561 million it received from the Commission.

"The Commission opened proceedings more than two years ago, and we are becoming increasingly concerned that effective and future-proof remedies might not emerge through settlement discussions alone," the letter reads.

In November 2010, the Commission opened an inquiry into Google's market practices. The company holds 90% of the European search engine market, and promotes its own services to the detriment of other providers. The Commission is concerned over four subjects: the preferential treatment of Google's specialised vertical search services in specific areas (travel or restaurants); the copying of the content of competing vertical search services, such as user commentaries; exclusivity agreements imposed by Google on its partners to display advertisements; and complaints on the portability of the publicity platform of Google adWords. Since July, the inquiry has also addressed other media, such as search applications for mobile phones and tablets.

However, Almunia has announced that he would still prefer to settle the matter amicably to avoid interminable procedures with companies in the...

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