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Google defends search biz as EU competition market test nears end

'Our proposals are meaningful and comprehensive' says Mountain View

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Google has defended its search business in its first major public statement in months about the European Commission's competition probe of the company.

The move comes just days before a market test of Google's offer to Brussels' anti-trust Commissioner Joaquin Almunia is concluded.

The Register understands that the vast majority of complainants in the case will outright reject Google's remedy proposals.

Google insisted today its talks with Europe's competition watchdog have been fruitful. It said in an official blog post penned by general counsel Kent Walker:

We’ve been discussing these innovations with the European Commission as they have reviewed our search and advertising business. We know that scrutiny comes along with success, and we have worked hard to answer their questions thoroughly and thoughtfully.

When the Commission outlined four areas of 'preliminary' concern last summer, we submitted proposals to address each point in a constructive way. Our proposals are meaningful and comprehensive, providing additional choice and information while also leaving room for future innovation.

As we’ve always said, we build Google for users, not websites. And we don’t want to hamper the very innovations that people like best about Google’s services. That’s why we focused on addressing the Commission’s specific concerns, and we think we did a pretty good job.

The commission extended its market test deadline to 27 June to allow rivals more time to comment on Google's proposal - the main tenet of which involves labelling search results with links to some of its competitors.

But many critics of Google have said that such a move could hamper competition even more than it allegedly does today. Mountain View currently commands about 90 per cent of the search market in Europe and its rivals claim that its dominance is abusive and sucks the life out of other online businesses operating within the EU.

Google is pushing hard to convince the commission to conclude its investigation and accept the terms of its offer, which was tabled in late April after Almunia privately ordered the company to make several rejigs to original proposal.

Almunia's office has said that it was likely that Google had abused its dominance of the European search market and the commissioner asked the multinational to address four areas of concern ranging from the company offering restaurant and news searches, to "copying original material from the websites of its competitors, such as user reviews".

Last month, the competition chief indicated that he would be seeking another redraft from Google once the market test had been completed, however.

"After, we will analyse the responses we have received ... almost 100 per cent we will ask Google: 'you should improve your proposals'," he told reporters in May.

El Reg understands that the groundwork is now being laid within Brussels to allow Google more time to rework its offer to the commission. All of which means the probe is likely to rumble on at least until the end of this year.

Google wants a settlement that stops short of sanctions. If found guilty of an infringement, the Larry Page-run company could face a fine as high as $5bn. ®

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