Google and the European Union [EU] are not in cahoots after the antitrust chief at the centre of a legal case strongly denied that a gentlemen’s agreement has been made to close the case.
The EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia poured scorn on criticism from Google’s rivals and his own colleagues that a stated deal had been cut to end the case with Google concessions still not deemed sufficient enough.
"I have also heard people say that the Commission has entered a gentlemen's agreement with Google which would lead to a way of dropping the charges or closing the file. Not at all," he told a Concurrences Journal conference on Thursday, according to Reuters. “It is logical. There are 28 commissioners, each having his own views. It is good that each one can share his views.”
Almunia added that Google would be monitored by an independent trustee to make sure that it doesn’t fall back into any of its anti-competitive habits.
Google secured the backing of Almunia on the third time of asking after two earlier attempts to bring an end to the case never got off the ground. The concessions that Google agreed to make include letting three rivals display logos and web links in a prominent box and content providers will be allowed to decide what material Google can use for its own services.
The proposal also sees Google abandon rules that meant advertisers weren’t allowed to move campaigns to rival platforms such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Yahoo! search.
The accused must adhere to the rules of the deal for the next five years and it means avoiding a fine of up to 10 per cent of its 2012 revenue, which would total up to $5 billion [£3 billion].
The EU’s case against Google began back in 2010 when Google was accused by smaller competitors of favouring its own results in its search engine and after the two earlier concessions offers, Almunia gave Google a “last opportunity” to address the concerns in January. The other 28 commissioners still have to rubber stamp the deal and if a unanimous agreement is not arrived at then Google could still be fined.