Google Escapes Fine In Europe By Reaching Antitrust Agreement With Regulators

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Google has reached a tentative agreement with the European Commission following a three-year antitrust investigation into how it displays search results in Europe. As part of the agreement, the company will display search results from three of its competitors — such as Yahoo! and Bing — alongside results that promote its own services.

By reaching this agreement, Google has escaped a fine of up to $5 billion, or 10 percent of its revenue from 2012.

Until now, when you search Google for things like hotels or cafes, the company’s own results would appear ahead of its competitors’. But under the new agreement, Google must label results from its own services to differentiate them from normal web results, and “display prominent links” to services from three rival companies alongside them.

Google must use an “objective” approach when selecting rival results, which will be highlighted in an “Alternatives” section at the top of its search results. The company must also allow content providers to opt-out of its search services without being penalized for doing so.

Google will have to comply with the agreement for at least five years, but in doing so, it will escape a hefty fine that could have been up to $5 billion, or 10 percent of its 2012 revenue. Just over a year ago, the company reached a similar settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission following another 19-month antitrust investigation.

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