Google Seeks Compromise with European Union

Google is facing investigations into its business practices by the European Commission, the executive body of the EU. The search giant has been accused by Foundem and other price comparison sites, of lowering the ranking of vertical search sites and favoring its own results in what are supposed to be “natural” results.
There are allegations as well that Google manipulated its own “quality score” (this score determines how much an advertiser must pay to place an ad on the search results page) and that Google tries to stop websites from accepting ads from rival search services. Google CEO Eric Schmidt indicates that Google is ready and willing to work with the EU to produce a compromise that addresses these “concerns.”

Reuters reports that the EU and Google are apparently in talks to resolve the antitrust investigations, and CEO Schmidt has said, “It is in our interests and I would hope in their interests to do a quick analysis of concerns that have been raised by competitors. Hopefully, they are minor or they are not correct, and we’ll find out and make sure we are operating well within the law and the spirit of the law.”

If antitrust allegations are substantiated by the EU, Google could face billions of dollars in fines: Microsoft found itself with a hefty $1 billion fine courtesy of the EU for violating competition laws when bundling its software.  To avoid a similar outcome, and a case that could drag out over the course of years, Schmidt says Google may be willing to change its search algorithm. This, though, would have other ramifications in Europe and the United States, because Google is also under the microscope for allegedly invading privacy with search engine policies.  As always, any change in Google’s algorithm could mean changes in the SEO world.

The EU may well be amenable to a compromise. After imposing Microsoft’s stunning fine, the Commission objected to the company bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. Microsoft suggested changes, including the option for users to pick a default browser upon startup, and the EU agreed. The result was no lengthy investigation, no fine, and no violations of the law. Schmidt’s statements indicate that Google is hoping to follow a similar path and resolve the investigations quickly and with minimal monetary damage.

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