The European Union on Monday offered Google the chance to settle a long-standing antitrust investigation, urging the US internet giant to modify its business practices to address competitors' complaints.
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Google should correct its behaviour as regards to: prioritizing its own links in search results; copying content from rivals; accompanying ads to search results; and prioritising its own online ads business AdWords.
"I have just sent a letter to the president of Google, Eric Schmidt, setting out these four points," Almunia told reporters.
Google should reply "in a matter of weeks" with proposals to address the commission's concerns, Almunia said. Negotiations could then start on a final "remedies package" that could allow the company to escape EU antitrust fines.
"I hope that Google seizes this opportunity to swiftly resolve our concerns, for the benefit of competition and innovation in the sector," the commissioner said.
The EU executive started its probe into Google in November 2010.
"We've only just started to look through the commission's arguments. We disagree with the conclusions but we're happy to discuss any concerns they might have," said Al Verney, a Google spokesman in Brussels.
"Competition on the web has increased dramatically in the last two years since the commission started looking at this and the competitive pressures Google faces are tremendous. Innovation online has never been greater," he added.
Regardless of whether a deal is struck, the company will remain under EU scrutiny on other competition issues, Almunia specified.
"We continue the investigations on other issues," the commissioner said, referring to complaints by rivals about being shut off from Google's mobile phone operating system Android and the way the company treats travel agencies on its search engine.
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