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Google improves antitrust offer, EU says deal in sight

The multinational company has been the focus of a European Commission investigation since November 2010

Published: Updated:

Google has offered further concessions to address regulatory concerns about its search results, the European Commission said on Wednesday, taking the company a step closer to settling a three-year investigation and prevent a fine of up to $5 billion.

The world's dominant search engine has been the focus of a European Commission investigation since November 2010, after more than a dozen complainants across Europe accused the company of promoting its own services at their expense.

Google has now made three attempts to resolve the case, with the latest moves looking like they will be enough to settle it.

"I believe that the new proposal obtained from Google after long and difficult talks can now address the Commission's concerns," European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

The Commission said it would make a final decision after obtaining feedback from Google's rivals.

Reuters reported on Jan. 29 that the EU's competition authority and Google were close to a deal to resolve the investigation.

Google's success in escaping possibly heavier sanctions mirrors a similar outcome in the United States last year, where Google received only a mild reprimand from the Federal Trade Commission.

Almunia, who has been in charge of antitrust issues at the European Commission since 2009, has developed a trackrecord of resolving cases via settlements rather than fines.

Google's ability to resolve competition issues in two major regions without a fine stands in sharp contrast to rival Microsoft, whose prickly relations with EU regulators landed it total fines of more than 2.2 billion euros over the past decade.

Under its latest proposals, Google, which has a 75 percent share of the European search market according to consultancy comScore, will let three rivals display their logos and web links in a prominent box, and content providers will be able to decide what material Google can use for its own services.

Google will also scrap restrictions that prevent advertisers from moving their campaigns to rival platforms such as Yahoo!'s search tool and Microsoft's Bing.