EU's Almunia sees Google antitrust decision after summer break

Thu May 15, 2014 5:44am EDT

* Google offers to display rival links prominently

* Concession would be valid in Europe for five years

By Foo Yun Chee

ST GALLEN, Switzerland, May 15 (Reuters) - EU regulators plan to issue a final decision on their competition probe into Google after the summer break, the EU's antitrust chief said, after rivals such as Microsoft complained about how Google displays Internet search results.

The world's top Internet search engine reached a deal with EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia in February by agreeing to display rivals' links more prominently, hoping to end a three-year-old case that could have led to a fine of up to $5 billion (3.6 billion euros).

More than a dozen companies, including Microsoft, British price comparison site Foundem and German online mapping company Hotmaps, have accused Google of squeezing them out of the market by demoting them in Internet search results.

Rivals say Google's concessions do not go far enough and will only entrench its dominance of Internet searches. And sources close to the matter have told Reuters that a third of members on the European Commission also opposed the deal, underlining the political sensitivity of the matter.

European Competition Commissioner Almunia said on Thursday he was listening to the various views but would not go back on the deal.

"I want this to be decided before the end of this Commission. I want to conclude ... weeks after the summer break," he told a St Gallen competition conference. The Commission effectively closes for August.

The Google deal would be valid for five years in Europe, where the company has a market share of more than 70 percent. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter)

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