By Tom Fairless from the Wall Street Journal
European Union antitrust regulators are preparing to step up their investigations into Google Inc. on several fronts, including revisiting a proposed settlement over its search-engine practices that has met with unprecedented opposition.
The European Commission is likely to revise some terms of the proposed settlement with Google that were announced in February.
BRUSSELS—European Union antitrust regulators are preparing to step up their investigations into Google Inc. on several fronts, including revisiting a proposed settlement over its search-engine practices that has met with unprecedented opposition.
The European Commission is likely to revise some terms of the proposed settlement announced in February, aimed at dealing with concerns that the company abuses its dominance of online searches in Europe, a person with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday.
A firm decision on whether to revise Google’s proposed commitments will be made in September, the person said.
The admission marks something of an about-face for EU competition chief Joaquín Almunia, who had previously insisted that the commitments agreed by Google were sufficient to meet the EU’s competition concerns.
A final decision on the case may now be taken by Mr. Almunia’s successor after he leaves office in November, the person said.
The European Commission is also deepening a second line of investigation into Google’s business practices relating to its Android operating system for mobile phones. The Commission recently sent out fresh requests for information from handset makers and other interested parties on their dealings with Android, a year after sending out a first batch of questionnaires, the person said.
The Android inquiry isn’t yet a formal investigation, but it is likely to become one, the person said.
The decision to deepen the investigation follows intense opposition to the Commission’s proposed search settlement with Google, both from top European politicians and the companies it was supposed to help. Some of the companies that lodged complaints against Google have said they would prefer no deal to the one negotiated by Mr. Almunia.
The Commission has decided that some concerns raised by complainants in response to letters explaining the EU’s settlement decision may be valid, the person said.
The concerns relate to the possible preferential treatment of Google’s services beyond their visibility on the search page, and the design of an auction mechanism aimed at allowing rivals to bid for better placement on the page. Some new complaints may also be integrated into the case that weren’t previously linked to it, the person said.
A spokesman for Google referred to previous comments that the company has made “significant changes to address the Commission’s concerns, greatly increasing the visibility of rival services and addressing other specific issues.”