EU sees Google competition deal after August

PARIS Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:16am EST

An illustration picture shows a Google logo with two one Euro coins, taken in Munich in this January 15, 2013 file photograph. Google Inc shares rose 1 percent to hit $800 per share on February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/Files

An illustration picture shows a Google logo with two one Euro coins, taken in Munich in this January 15, 2013 file photograph. Google Inc shares rose 1 percent to hit $800 per share on February 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Dalder/Files

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PARIS (Reuters) - EU regulators hope to resolve a two-year investigation into U.S. internet company Google in the latter half of the year, the EU's antitrust chief said on Friday, although a rival expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of any solution.

The European Commission - the EU's executive arm - has been examining proposals put forward by Google to resolve complaints from more than a dozen companies, including Microsoft, that Google was using its market dominance to block competitors.

"We can reach an agreement after the summer break. We can envisage this as a possible deadline," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told a Concurrences Journal conference.

The Commission is closed for its summer break for most of August.

Almunia said there would only be a decision "if everything was okay." Neither Google nor the EU antitrust authority have detailed what concessions the U.S. group has offered. If the EU authority accepts the offer, it would mean no fine for Google.

People familiar with the matter have previously told Reuters that Google offered to label its own services in search results to differentiate them from rival services, and also to impose fewer restrictions on advertisers.

The Commission is expected to seek feedback from Google rivals and other third parties once it completes its examination of the concessions.

However, British price comparison site and Google complainant Foundem had doubts about the efficacy of any proposals from the U.S. company.

"We will withhold judgment on Google's proposals until we have seen them, but everything we have learned about Google makes us sceptical that it would volunteer truly effective remedies until it has been formally charged with infringement," said Foundem Chief Executive Shivaun Raff.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission last month ended its own investigation without any significant action, handing Google a major victory.

EU regulators have said Google may have favored its own search services over those of rivals, copied travel and restaurant reviews from competing sites without permission, and placed restrictions on advertisers and advertising.

(Editing by Dan Lalor and Mark Potter)

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