Google attempts to stave off EU fine by offering rivals equal advertising space

After being slapped with a record 2.4 billion euro fine for breaching EU antitrust regulations, Google is doing everything within its power to stave off another hit. In a bid to appease the European Commission, Google has offered to display rival comparison shopping sites via an auction in order to level the playing field.

In its proposal submitted to the European Commission on August 29, Google said it would allow competitors to bid for any spot in its shopping section known as Product Listing Ads. Whether or not that satisfies the EU remains to be seen. EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said it was too early to say if the offer would be accepted. “It is at this point in time of course impossible to say what will happen but obviously market reactions will be one of the things that we’ll be taking under consideration,” she said.

Google attempted a similar ply three years ago, only for the EU to reject the proposal and hit the company with a huge fine. It was ultimately thrown out following criticism from rivals that directly complained to the EU. Under that proposal, Google would reserve the first two places for its own ads. The new offer would also see Google set a floor price with its own bids minus operating costs.

The European Commission insists the onus is on Google to comply with its cease and desist order. “It is Google’s sole responsibility to ensure compliance with the Commission antitrust decision, and it is for Google to explain how it intends to do so,” spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said.

The investigation into Google was launched in 2010 after UK price comparison site Foundem flagged up the violation to the EU. The British company has dismissed Google’s proposal saying that the company needs to do more to fall in line. “Unless Google is volunteering to break up its general-and specialised-search businesses, the inclusion of Google’s comparison shopping competitors into a new or existing pay-for-placement auction would simply create an additional anti-competitive barrier,” a Foundem spokesperson said.

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