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Google close to inking search biz deal with Brussels: report

Insiders claim rivals will NOT get to market-test revised offer

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Google is reportedly edging closer to scoring a settlement deal with competition officials in Brussels regarding the ad giant's alleged abuse of its dominance in the European search market.

According to Reuters, Google has submitted a "much better" revised package of concessions to the European Commission's anti-trust chief Joaquin Almunia.

The EC vice-president had rejected the company's previous two offers to change its business practices. Google commands around 90 per cent of the search market in the 28-member bloc.

It's been reported by the newswire that an agreement could be reached within the next few days. At most, crunch time for an apparent settlement that would stop short of sanctions or any admittance from Google of wrongdoing is a matter of weeks away, Reuters said, citing an unnamed senior EU source.

Another insider backed up the claim that a settlement was likely to happen soon and apparently said that Google's latest offer builds on its previous one without containing "dramatic changes".

Reuters added, citing its second source, that search rivals will not be involved in a market test this time around.

Lobby group Fairsearch, which counts Google arch-enemy Microsoft as a member, said in response to the report that it was "vital" that Mountain View's revised offer should be "subject to broad consultation."

It added:

Without actual testing of the likely effects of Google's latest proposal, any assessment of it would just be speculative. The concerns raised by the Commission's investigation are too important to consumers for them to be addressed by a settlement that is not thoroughly vetted.

Almunia's office declined to comment on this story.

A Google spokesman told The Register that the company "does not comment on ongoing legal proceedings," but, significantly, refused to deny outright that a settlement is close. ®

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