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Europe's Antitrust Watchdog Demands More Concessions From Google

Eric Schmidt Portrait - P 2013
Christopher Patey
EU officials have written to Google chairman Eric Schmidt demanding changes.

The EU's competition commissioner has called for the Internet giant to change how it runs its online search business in Europe or face major fines.

Europe's top antitrust watchdog has warned Google that it must to make more changes to how it runs its online search business if it wants to avoid huge fines.

The EU has been investigating Google's business practices in Europe for almost three years, a probe initiated after several companies complained that Google's search engine unfairly gives preferential treatment to its in-house services, such as Google Maps or Google News, over rival offerings.

Google is even more dominant in the Internet search market in Europe than it is in the U.S., with more than 90 percent of the market in many EU countries, compared to about 70 percent stateside.

In April, Google proposed several changes to appease the EU, including labeling results pointing to its own services and separating them with a box from general search results.

But on Wednesday,  EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Google's suggestions didn't go far enough. Almunia said he has written to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt “asking Google to present better proposals or improved proposals.”

If Google doesn't comply, the company could face the kind of drawn-out, expensive antitrust battle that has plagued Microsoft's relationship with the EU. Earlier this year, the EU fined Microsoft $731 million (€561 million) for failing to offer European users of its software a choice of which Internet browser to use.

In total, Microsoft has been fined more than $2.9 billion (€2.2 billion) by EU antitrust authorities over the past 10 years.

In a separate development, the authorities of several European countries warned Google earlier this month that its privacy policy is in violation of EU law and must be changed if Google wants to avoid legal sanctions.