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Google reaches possible antitrust settlement with European Commission

The European Commission [official website] reached a tentative settlement [press release] Wednesday with Google [corporate website] in connection to an ongoing EU antitrust investigation of the company. Google faces [NYT report] USD $5 billion in fines over accusations that the company's search engine is blocking competitors' content and promoting Google services. Under the settlement Google would guarantee that during European searches whenever Google promotes its own specialized search services on a search page the services of three rivals will also be provided "in a way that is clearly visible to users and comparable to the way in which Google displays its own services." Under the settlement Google's rivals will have to pay the company each time their results are shown alongside Google's own. Prices will be controlled by a bidding process overseen by an independent monitor In return for these concessions Google would not face any fines or be forced to admit any wrongdoing on their part. According to the European Commission, Google's compliance with this tentative requirement along with previous concessions would be supervised by an independent monitoring trustee and would be binding within the European Economic Area (EAA) for five years.

Google's settlement proposal is the third such proposal from the search giant to resolve European antitrust allegations. Google announced [JURIST report] a new settlement concession proposal in September. The company formally offered concessions [text, PDF] to the European Commission for a possible settlement in April, but they were rejected by EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia [official profile] in July. Google has faced over legal challenges over privacy concerns. In January Britain's High Court [official website] ruled that Google can be sued [JURIST report] by British citizens in the UK despite Google's arguments that the case does not fall under British jurisdiction. The company is being sued for breach of privacy [UK Independent report] by over 100 users of Apple's Safari browser who claim that Google tracked their browsing history without their knowledge, breaching the 1998 Data Protection Act [text].

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