Google and the EC reach anti-trust agreement over online advertising

5 Feb 2014

European Commission building photo via Wikimedia Commons

After four years of investigations by the European Commission (EC), Google has reached an agreement in Europe whereby rival shopping sites are displayed beside Google’s advertisers.

In the EC’s statement announced today, Google must now guarantee that European users of the search engine visiting the site will not just be presented with specialised advertising featuring products or services it has deals with, but must also clearly show three rival providers beside Google’s own product adverts.

The online company has already conceded a further three anti-trust issues the EC had with it, including Google giving content providers an extensive opt-out from the use of their content in Google’s specialised search services if they so wish, without being penalised by Google; removing exclusivity requirements in its agreements with publishers for the provision of search advertisements; and removing restrictions on the ability for search advertising campaigns to be run on competing search advertising platforms.

New Google advertising

How the new advertising on Google will appear. Note the alternative products section.

End to lengthy investigation

The EC’s vice-president in charge of competition policy, Joaquín Almunia, said he is glad this lengthy three-year investigation has finally come to a conclusion. “I believe that the new proposal obtained from Google after long and difficult talks can now address the Commission’s concerns. Without preventing Google from improving its own services, it provides users with real choice between competing services presented in a comparable way; it is then up to them to choose the best alternative.

“This way, both Google and its rivals will be able and encouraged to innovate and improve their offerings. Turning this proposal into a legally binding obligation for Google would ensure that competitive conditions are both restored quickly and maintained over the next years.”

The EC has added it will continue monitoring the company’s European activities online and through its monitoring trustee, as well as any other similar websites that would break the EC’s rules.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic