In an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday, Commissioner Almunia made the announcement that Google’s long awaited revised commitments proposal had been received. Although he kept his cards close to his chest, the Commissioner was clear that he retains the option of returning to formal proceedings by issuing a Statement of Objections to Google should his concerns not be satisfied by the revised offer.
Whilst it is not yet clear what improvements Google has offered, if any, or indeed if the Commission will consider that they resolve its concerns, what is clear is the importance of allowing a formal opportunity for industry to make their own analysis and provide responses before any final agreement can be reached. Indeed, Google’s initial response to the request for improved commitments was to deny they were needed, instead insisting that the “proposal to the European Commission addresses the four concerns that were raised”. Google repeated the same line yesterday.
As ICOMP Counsel David Wood commented earlier: “While we await the details, we must hope Google’s proposals finally represent a genuine attempt to address the concerns identified, unlike the previous proposals which were so manifestly defective and universally condemned.”
ICOMPs members have also responded to the last developments with similar calls for action:
Dr. Marc Pinter-Krainer, Founder & CEO of One News Page said:
“We welcome the news of Google submitting a new proposal intended to settle the ongoing EU antitrust probe into its business practices. It may well be the final opportunity for a swift restoration of a healthy online ecosystem which has long been heavily distorted by Google abusing its dominant position in search in order to gain a competitive advantage for its other products such as news or mapping. We sincerely hope that Google’s latest proposals include equal treatment – an element missing from its original proposals rejected by the EU, yet of critical importance for the effective restoration of fair competition online. Only a second formal market test can confirm this.”
Sylvie Fodor, Executive Director of CEPIC said:
“Too little information is currently available to form an informed view on Google’s revised proposals. We hope Google has seriously addressed the issues and this is not just a disappointing re-mix of the initial offer. In any case, the stakes for all Internet players, including consumers, are so high that the Commission can only be strongly recommended to put the new proposals to a market test again rather than, by political complacency, just go on and “settle” with Google.”
Michael Weber, Director of hot-map.com said:
“As I said previously, I would welcome commitments from Google that quickly restore competition and provide the level playing field needed to allow internet companies to grow. However, the Commission needs to take firm action and while we would welcome a rapid solution, that alone is not enough. The solution must be the right one to fully restore competition and prevent any future abuses.”
Michael Buller, Executive board of the organization for online travel sales (VIR) said:
“The VIR welcomes Google’s second proposal and hopes for a strong commitment towards free competition and the same initial conditions for all online research. Although Google’s response is welcomed, an industry analysis of the proposal is of high importance, followed by an industry response to the proposal. The VIR wants to point out that the organization’s aim is not to impede Google or to handicap further competition, but to ensure that this competition has a realistic chance of developing. Free competition is crucial in order to offer customers a choice between different suppliers. This is in the interests of the European customer.”