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Google search biz offer BINNED by EU competition chief

Joaquin Almunia warns ad giant that time is running out

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Google's latest attempt to wiggle away from allegations that it abuses its dominant position in Europe's search market suffered a significant blow today - its revised offer to Brussels' competition chief has been rejected.

Antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia said during an interview on Spanish radio this morning that Google's reworked package of concessions to settle the European Commission's three-year-long formal case and thus avoid sanctions were not good enough.

He said in answer to a question on whether he had accepted the offer:

[T]he latest proposals are not acceptable in the sense that they are not proposals that can eliminate our concerns regarding competition and in particular regarding the way Google's rivals in vertical search – search for products and price comparison, restaurants, etc. – are being treated.

When asked if sanctions would follow, Almunia added:

No, no, no … At this moment there is little time left, but the ball is still in Google's court. But within a short timeframe, the ball will then be here and then it will be the moment to take decisions.

The ad giant's rivals have lobbied hard against Google's latest submission by arguing - it would seem successfully - that the proposals would allow the company to continue to have a stranglehold on the search market in Europe.

But Almunia's comments this morning are the clearest signal yet that Google has to do something radical to please the commissioner, or else face multi-billion dollar fines.

We contacted Google for comment, but they have yet to respond. We'll update if and when we hear from them. ®

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