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.
In September, Almunia suggested that Google needed to offer solutions that would end its illegal practices and restore competition (his complete speech can be found here) or the Commission would initiate a formal case against Google. 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.”
Earlier this year, 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 agreement
- 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 laws.
While developments in the case have been light this fall, Almunia “has tremendous influence over what happens to Google,” CNET recently said in a piece profiling his importance.
As talks continue and the European Commission reaches a critical juncture in the case, FairSearch has outlined the key points the European Commission and other law enforcement officials around the world need to address to right the harms Almunia has identified. The approach takes the following common-sense approach: “Antitrust enforcement officials should insist on effective remedies that address the fundamental conflict of interest driving Google’s incentive and ability to engage in anti-competitive conduct.”
As the FairSearch coalition has noted, “Any package of remedies that does not end Google’s preferencing of its own products ahead of natural search results would be viewed as insufficient in restoring a truly competitive landscape to search and search advertising.”
The ball is in the court of Almunia, Chairman Jon Leibowitz and other members of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and the six attorneys general who have collected evidence of Google’s illegal and harmful business practices. The time for action is now.