EU Rejects 3rd Google Antitrust Deal; It’s Time For Formal Complaint

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The European Commission’s Competition Commissioner said over the weekend that Google’s proposed antitrust settlement is inadequate and added he would seek further concessions from the Internet giant.

It’s clear to me that settlement talks will prove fruitless and that after almost four years of investigation and negotiation, it’s time for the competition authorities to file a formal complaint, a so-called Statement of Objections.

Commissioner Joaquin Almunia’s decision came in response to objections raised to the third proposed settlement deal released last February. Indeed, Consumer Watchdog, as well as our colleagues at BEUC (The European Consumer Organization) were among those objecting.

Saturday Almunia told Bloomberg television, “Some complainants have introduced new arguments, new data, new considerations. We now need to analyze this and see if we can find solutions, Google can find solutions, to some of these concerns that we find justified.”

Almunia also told Bloomberg that the Commission will “probably” open a formal investigation into Google’s Android mobile operating system if regulators don’t get “adequate” answers from the company to complaints.

"In the replies to our letters the complainants have submitted new arguments and data, some of which should be taken in consideration. We are now in contact with Google to see if they are ready to offer solutions," Commission spokesman Antoine Colombani told Reuters on Monday.

Don’t hold your breath. Each of three settlement proposals has taken months to negotiate and then each has proved inadequate. Google executives will only drag their feet again, while claiming to be “working with the European Commission.”

Almunia is only effectively in office until November when the new Competition Commissioner is expected to be named. I cannot imagine an unprecedented fourth settlement proposal being reached by then.

Almunia had hoped to resolve the Commission’s very real antitrust concerns through negotiations and a settlement. It’s been four years; I don’t think it can happen. It’s time to file a formal complaint, a Statement of Objections, which could lead to a fine of $5 billion.

John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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