(Adds comments from politician's editorial)
SAN FRANCISCO/FRANKFURT, July 22 European Union
antitrust regulators are preparing to step up investigations of
Google Inc's practices on several fronts and are
likely to revise certain terms of a settlement involving its
search engine that was proposed earlier this year, the Wall
Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
Google has been the target of a European Commission
investigation since November 2010, when more than a dozen
complainants, including Microsoft Corp, accused the
company of promoting its own services at their expense.
In February, Google agreed to make concessions on how it
displays competitors' links, striking a deal that ended a
three-year antitrust probe and avoided a hefty fine.
But the agreement has been criticized, both by tech
companies and European politicians, as inadequate. Competition
Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said at the time he would accept
Google's concessions without consulting complainants, prompting
a furious response.
On Tuesday, the Commission said it was considering formal
complaints to the agreement and aimed to make a decision on the
matter in September.
"We have written to the formal complainants in the ongoing
proceedings and we have not received yet all their replies," a
spokesman for the Commission said. "In early August all replies
will have been submitted. We will then thoroughly analyze the
arguments they contain and, depending on the outcome of that
analysis, the next steps will be decided by Mr. Almunia in
Google may face other investigations, including regarding
its Android operating system for smartphones.
The European Commission recently sent a fresh request for
information to handset makers on their dealings with Android,
which runs on roughly four-fifths of the world's smartphones.
That line of inquiry is likely to turn into a formal
investigation, the Journal reporting, citing a person with
knowledge of the situation.
Last month, Almunia said he could initiate an investigation
of YouTube if he saw any attempt by Google to abuse its
dominance of online video searching.
In a guest editorial for German newspaper Bild on Tuesday,
Martin Shulz, head of the EU Parliament, argued that the
decision on how to treat Google should not be taken by an
outgoing Commission. Almunia will vacate his post later this
"The EU has to make the decision on how to deal with Google
with care," he said in the editorial. "It cannot be that we've
been discussing Google for months, and that the decision takes
place when half of Europe is on holiday."
Google did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Edwin Chan and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco
and Harro ten Wolde in Frankfurt; Editing by Chris Reese and Dan