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Google given ultimatum in European antitrust case

The head of the European Commision's antitrust unit Joaquin Almunia has offered Google its "last opportunity" to sort out accusations that it has been abusing its position as Europe's most dominant search engine.

If Google is unable to settle the matter then Almunia has warned he will have no choice but to pursue legal action.

Investigations into Google's practices began in 2010 when an antitrust complaint was issued by smaller companies claiming the search engine was demoting them in search results. In doing so, it is alleged that Google was prioritising its own services that were in competition with these companies.

The EC's antitrust unit began looking into the matter and so far two separate proposals from Google to remedy the complaints have been rejected, most recently last month.

"Let's see if Google can improve their proposal or we go the traditional route," Almunia told reporters yesterday. "We need more, not during the next year but during the next weeks."

Should Google fail to improve its proposal, the EC would pursue a court case that could lead to the search engine being fined up to 10 per cent of its global revenues.

In Europe, 90 per cent of all online searches are conducted through Google, compared to 70 per cent in the US. As such it is in a very powerful position to control what content appears in the vast majority of search results, as well as block adverts from rivals from appearing on its pages.

Whatever conclusions are reached in this matter, only countries in the EU will be affected. However, it could set a precedent for other regions to follow.