Google offers to settle EU antitrust probe

Search behemoth Google today offered to settle an ongoing European antitrust investigation in a bid to prevent it from being served with huge fines and restrictions on its business practices in Europe.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has sent a letter to European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, according to Reuters, in which Schmidt offered a deal that could prevent a fully-fledged antitrust investigation.

The letter addressed the “four areas the European Commission described” last month — which can be found here.

The details of the letter were not open for disclosure.

A Google spokesperson confirmed to CNET that the search giant had made a “proposal” to address the European Commission’s concerns, and will “continue to work cooperatively with the commission.”

Almunia said in May during a midday briefing that the commission had asked Google to “make concessions” and offer a settlement bid to prevent an all-out antitrust investigation. If Google failed to adjust its business practices, a formal antitrust complaint would be sent to the company.

Back in 2010, regulators on both sides of the Atlantic began investigating the company based on claims from rival firms that Google was discriminating against them in the online advertising space.

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Not limited to Europe, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission also began an investigation, while Argentinian and South Korean authorities are also looking into how Google operates and have reportedly considered drawing up charges.

If Google concedes defeat and the European Commission allows Google to successfully settle, it’s an admission of guilt. However, it does mean that Google would avoid an actual “guilty” verdict.

Should the settlement offer fail, Google would face a fine up to around $3.8 billion — a maximum of 10 percent of its $37.9 billion global revenue last year.

CNET has sought comment from European Commission, and will update this post if we hear anything back.

Related Links:

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EU’s Almunia: Google has until July to address antitrust concerns

Texas AG slaps Google with suit over withheld documents

EU General Court ready to decide fate of Microsoft’s antitrust fine

via CNET Latest

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