EU Antitrust Chief Says Google Has Final Chance to Settle Case
By Vanessa Mock
BRUSSELS--Google Inc. (GOOG) has one final chance to address the European Union's antitrust concerns before facing a formal complaint, the EU's antitrust chief warned Wednesday, saying the Internet service provider needs to act in the next weeks.
"I'm waiting for this last opportunity to solve this [...]," the EU's Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.
Google hasn't yet responded to criticism that its second set of proposals failed to address concerns that it may discriminate against rivals in its search results, he added.
"I'm waiting for a reaction from Google to my [...] statements saying that [...] I am not satisfied. We need more. We need more, not during the next year, but during the next weeks. I have not yet received this answer," Mr. Almunia told reporters in Brussels.
Mr. Almunia's warning follows comments he made last month in which he described Google's latest proposals as "not acceptable."
"Let's see if Google can improve on those proposals or we'll go the traditional route to a [Statement of Objections]," Mr. Almunia added, referring to a formal complaint by EU regulators. Such a move would mark the start of a legal process that could lead to hefty fines for the U.S. company.
Google now has just a few weeks left if it wants to settle the case, meaning it would have to accept legally-binding commitments without implying wrongdoing.
The company couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
The EU launched its probe into Google more than three years ago. Google submitted a second set of proposals in October to counter accusations that it squeezes out its rivals in its search results. Its first proposals were flatly rejected earlier in 2013 and rivals said last month that the latest so-called remedies still don't address antitrust concerns. Google's rivals such as Microsoft and Expedia say they are discriminated in vertical search, such as price comparison and restaurant review websites.
Google said last month that it had made "significant changes to address the EC's concerns, greatly increasing the visibility of rival services and addressing other specific issues."
Write to Vanessa Mock at email@example.com
Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires
(END) Dow Jones Newswires 01-15-140832ET Copyright (c) 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.