Google offers deal to end Brussels anti-trust probe

Surfboards in Google office The investigation into Google's European search business started in 2010

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Google has proposed a package of concessions as it seeks to end a long-running investigation into its European search business.

The suggested changes to its business were made following talks with European Commission competition regulators.

Since November 2010, Brussels has been looking into Google's search business following complaints from rivals.

Google said it was continuing to co-operate with the Commission investigation.

Test case

The anti-trust investigation was kicked off by rivals such as Microsoft, as well as mapping firms and web retailers which said the way Google ran its search business made it hard for them to compete fairly.

In a statement, Antoine Colombani, the Commission spokesman on competition policy, said it had completed its preliminary assessment a few weeks ago and had told Google of its concerns.

This, he said, had prompted Google to submit a formal proposal to the Commission about what it would do to change the way it operated. By making formal proposals, Google hopes to head off potentially huge fines.

Among the measures, Google is believed to have offered to label its services to make it more obvious to people what they are using and to make it easier for people to use rival advertising services, the Reuters news agency reports.

The proposals will now be subjected to a "market test" to gauge the response of rivals and to see if the suggested remedies meet the Commission's requirements.

Speaking in Washington, Joaquin Almunia, the EU competition commissioner, said any agreement reached with Google would be legally binding.

In January, the US Federal Trade Commission ended its anti-trust investigation and won a pledge from Google to end some practices, such as scraping data from websites to help target adverts, that had triggered the competition probe.

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