| BRUSSELS, March 21
BRUSSELS, March 21 Eleven companies with
grievances against Google urged EU antitrust regulators
on Thursday to formally charge the world's No.1 search engine of
anti-competitive practices instead of pursuing settlement talks.
The European Commission is now examining proposals put
forward by Google in January aimed at ending a two-year
investigation and averting a possible fine that could reach $5
billion or 10 percent of the company's 2012 revenues.
Neither the Commission nor Google, which has a market share
of over 80 percent in Europe, has provided details of the offer
which came after more than a dozen companies, including
Microsoft, accused it of using its market dominance to
EU regulators said Google may have violated antitrust rules
by favouring its own services over those of rivals, copying
travel and restaurant reviews from competing sites without their
permission, and placing restrictions on advertisers using its
Among the companies which said they were not convinced
Google's proposal would resolve the issue were British price
comparison site Foundem, online travel sites Expedia
and Tripadvisor, two online mapping companies and two trade
bodies representing German publishers.
"Google's past behaviour suggests that it is unlikely to
volunteer effective, future-proof remedies without being
formally charged with infringement," the group wrote in a letter
to EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.
"Given this, and the fact that Google has exploited every
delay to further entrench, extend, and escalate its
anti-competitive activities, we urge the Commission to issue the
statement of objections," they said.
The statement of objections (SO) is a document in which the
EU competition authority lays out its concerns which companies
need to address. The SO, which typically takes several years to
complete, could result in a hefty fine as well as an order to
stop the anti-competitive practices.
Neither Google nor the Commission responded to emails for
People familiar with the matter have previously told Reuters
that Google, as part of a settlement, had offered to label its
own services in search results to differentiate them from rival
services, and also to impose fewer restrictions on advertisers.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission in January ended its own
investigation into Google's business practices without any
significant action, handing Google a major victory.