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Commitment issues for Google as the Commission gets tough on remedies

27 February 2014

On 5 February 2014, the European Commission announced that it has secured an offer from Google to enhance the commitments it had already made to address its concerns about Google's practices on the online search and advertising market.

Under these improved commitments, Google promises to display, equally prominently, three viable rival search services whenever it advertises its own specialised web search services.

The Commission initiated proceedings against Google, issuing a preliminary statement of objections in March 2013, because it suspected Google was favouring its own search services and imposing anti-competitive restrictions on users of its advertising services. 

Google's previous commitments to address these concerns extended only to:

  • labelling promoted links to its own specialised search services
  • offering all websites the option to opt-out from the use of all their content in Google's specialised search services
  • no longer including in its agreements with publishers any written or unwritten obligations that would require them to source online search advertisements exclusively from Google.

However, after a period of consultation and consideration of feedback from complainants and other interested parties, the Commission decided that Google's initial promises would not adequately damage the competition issues Google's online business was creating. 

The fresh commitments, by contrast, appear to represent a significant outcome for Commission competition policy and a firm recognition by one of the EU's highest-profile and influential businesses of the need to offer concessions to avoid sanctions for infringing competition law.

The Commission will consult once again on the revised commitments, before taking a final decision on whether or not to make them legally binding on Google.

This article was written by Rory Ashmore.

For more information please contact Rory on +44 (0)20 7427 1031 or rory.ashmore@crsblaw.com