Google makes new concessions to EU regulators: paper

BRUSSELS Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:49am EDT

A woman walks past the Google Chicago headquarters logo in Chicago, March 20, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young

A woman walks past the Google Chicago headquarters logo in Chicago, March 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google (GOOG.O) has offered an improved package of concessions to EU regulators in a bid to settle an antitrust investigation and avert a possible hefty fine, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

The world's most popular search engine submitted some proposals early this month to the European Commission after the EU watchdog gave it a last chance to respond to more than a dozen complaints about its business practices.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia pointed to four areas of concern. He said Google's general search engine may unfairly favor other Google services and may have copied original material from other websites, such as travel and restaurant reviews, without their permission.

He also said the company's advertising deals may exclude third parties from concluding similar deals with rivals while contractual restrictions on software developers may prevent advertisers from transferring their online campaigns to rival search engines.

Google had now submitted a revised package of concessions after Almunia spoke to its chairman, Eric Schmidt, and requested it to clarify some of the elements, the Financial Times said, without citing any sources.

The newspaper said Almunia would decide in the next two weeks whether to accept Google's offer or charge the company with anti-competitive behavior.

If found guilty of the latter, Google could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its revenue -- based on its 2011 results, this would be nearly $4 billion.

Almunia's spokesman Antoine Colombani declined to comment. Google spokesman Al Verney said the company was continuing to cooperate with the Commission.

The European Commission opened a probe into Google in November 2010 after rivals, including Microsoft (MSFT.O), took their grievances to the regulator.

(Writing by Yunchee Foo. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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