In July, news of technical talks between Google and Joaquín Almunia, vice president of the European Commission and the commissioner responsible for competition, suggested the search giant was finally willing to concede it must change its anti-competitive practices to avoid a finding it is violating the law.
But today, speaking at the Fordham antitrust conference in New York, Almunia’s comments suggest that time is drawing short for Google to offer solutions that would end its practices in question and restore competition (his complete speech can be found here). According to a Reuters report, Almunia said:
“If effective solutions were found quickly and tested successfully, competition could be restored at an early stage by means of a commitment decision… However, we are not there yet, and it must be clear that – in the absence of satisfactory proposals in the short term – I will be obliged to continue with our formal proceedings.”
In May, Almunia outlined four areas of concern for where Google may be violating the law, namely, how Google promotes its own services over others in search results; “scrapes” content from other websites; engages in anti-competitive advertising agreements; and restricts advertisers from moving campaigns to rival advertising platforms. Almunia also indicated he was concerned that Google’s mobile services may also be violating EU competition and consumer protection laws.
Google has had ample time to correct its business practices on its own and to present plans that would convince law enforcement officials around the globe that it will comply with its legal obligations. The company’s record makes it difficult to trust that Google will put forward such measures and even harder to believe they will uphold their end of any agreement with law enforcement and government officials.
The time has come for the search giant to immediately end the practices under investigation or face strong enforcement actions worldwide that force it do so.
At this critical juncture in talks between Google and the EC, it’s important to note where FairSearch stands on the prospects for a swift resolution to the investigations, as the coalition said in July:
“The FairSearch coalition would welcome a rapid, substantive and legally enforceable change to Google’s business practices that steer users to its own products and away from others. Only when these practices end will Google’s ongoing harm to consumers and innovators end. Any binding set of changes to Google’s practices must be paired with strong ongoing monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that the company does not return to its anti-competitive practices.”