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Google forced to bow to Europe

Clair Cain Miller (via NYT/ AFR) | April 16, 2013
Google has for the first time agreed to legally binding changes to its search results after an antitrust investigation by European regulators.

Last month, 11 complainants to the European Commission, including Expedia and TripAdvisor, sent a letter to the commission expressing concern that it was not prepared to penalize Google enough. 'Google's search manipulation practices lay waste to entire classes of competitors in every sector where Google chooses to deploy them,' the letter said.

About 86 percent of all online searches in Europe are conducted using Google, according to the Web analyst comScore. In the United States, it has about two-thirds of the market.

Under the terms of the settlement, the details of which were first reported by the Financial Times, search results would look slightly different in Europe than elsewhere.

In areas where Google does not make money from search results, like weather or news, the company will label the results as Google-owned properties. In areas where Google sells ads, like local business reviews, it will show links to at least three competitors. In areas in which all search results are paid ads, like shopping, Google will auction links to rivals.

Google will also give Web sites the ability to prevent their content from being included in its vertical search properties, while allowing them to stay in general search results. Yelp, for instance, had complained that Google used its content for its own local search engine but that Google would not stop unless Yelp bowed out of Google altogether. Competitors could also choose to block as much as 10 percent of the content on their Web sites from Google; Yelp, for instance, could block Google from lifting business hours from its listings.

Google would also make it easier for small businesses to transport their ad campaigns to other search engines, in a deal similar to one it made with the Federal Trade Commission in January.

Some of Googles rivals already appear focused on a new case concerning its behavior on mobile platforms. Microsoft is part of a coalition of companies that recently filed a new complaint with the European Commission about Googles Android operating system for mobile devices.



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