Déjà vu -- Europeans restart antitrust probe of Google (is Android next?)

Eric's head just exploded

google antitrust europe

Google's European frustrations continue. The EC has re-opened its interminable antitrust case, because the proposed settlement doesn't seem to please ministers nor rivals.

When will it all end?

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers are sick of popcorn.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

Aoife White and Flavia Rotondi break the story:

European Union regulators are “trying to extract” more concessions from Google...after hostility to plans to settle a four-year antitrust probe. [They] got “very, very negative” feedback to the proposed pact from companies, including Microsoft...and Expedia...that asked the EU to examine allegations that Google discriminates against rivals in search results, Joaquin Almunia said.

“Some complainants have introduced new arguments, new data, new considerations,” the EU antitrust commissioner said. “We now need to analyze this and see if we can find solutions [for any] concerns that we find justified.” [But this] would mark an about-face for Almunia who has defended the planned settlement in the face of criticism. ... Almunia has been seeking voluntary concessions from Google for two years to avoid a more aggressive investigation.  

And here's a "surprised" Charles "not a troll" Arthur:

The European Commission is reopening its four-year antitrust investigation into Google...and could open a separate one into...Android.

The unprecedented move comes after a political storm over the proposed settlement. ... Ministers from Germany and France, as well as other commissioners in the EC, had criticised the proposed settlement. [It had] fierce opposition from complainants to the original investigation, who said Almunia had not put it through “market testing” to examine its effects on their businesses.

Over the summer a coalition of publishers and others lobbied the EC, and particularly Almunia, to reopen the negotiations. ... The key objection to the proposed settlement, which would have allowed rival services to buy spaces at the top of search results pages, was that it would not prevent Google from favouring its own services...rather than the zero-cost solution if they were ranked highly in “organic” search.  

Iain Thomson seems slightly snarky:

The US goliath's rivals allege that Google unfairly ranks its own services...and scrapes their sites for material to use itself. Since the last offering of concessions...it appears these competitors are still not happy.

The prospect of yet another round of negotiation will be causing some headaches at Google, since it makes it unlikely that any settlement can be wrapped up before Almunia retires. ... A new commissioner would...have to get up to speed on the case, which probably wouldn't help. ... Google has revised its settlement offer...three times already and this newly intransigent stand will have dashed hopes that a deal can be struck.  

So Google chair Eric Schmidt throws himself into the war of words: [You're fired -Ed.]

Some of Europe’s biggest publishers are...arguing that Google is too dominant and that we favour our own products. ... [But] we show the results at the top that answer the user’s queries directly. ... We’re trying to get you direct answers to your queries because it’s quicker and less hassle than the ten blue links Google used to show.

As European Commissioner Almunia...said: “Imposing strict equal treatment...would deprive European users of the search innovations that Google has introduced.” We agree.  

Meanwhile, Danny Hakim and James Kanter roll out this tired "uncompetitive Europeans" angle:

A French minister pronounced [Google] a threat to...sovereignty. A European publishing executive likened it to a Wagnerian dragon...reflecting the broader challenges facing American technology companies...criticism of an intrusive American government and concern over America’s unmatched technology dominance.

The backlash in Europe extends beyond Google. Taxi drivers from London to Madrid have demonstrated against Uber. ... Apple and Amazon are being investigated over their tax policies, and regulators are scrutinizing Facebook’s proposed acquisition of WhatsApp.

“We are afraid of Google,” wrote Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of Axel Springer, a German publishing giant, in an open letter to Eric Schmidt. [But] Google has not been idle...the company has tripled its lobbying budget in Brussels to as much as $2 million annually.  


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