No Solution Yet in EU's Antitrust Probe of Google

Joaquin Almunia in Nasdaq, September 20, 2012

Media Source

--European authorities still in talks with Google on antitrust case

--EU antitrust czar says company's proposals are under review

--In separate case, Microsoft may face enforcement action for web-browser violation

(Adds comment from Microsoft, in eighth paragraph.)

By Matthew Walter

European Union authorities are still in talks with Google Inc. (GOOG) about alleged antitrust practices in its Internet-search business and have received proposals from the company to address their concerns, said EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

Should Google's proposals fail to address the issues raised by the EU, authorities will be forced to take some action, Mr. Almunia said in a speech at Fordham University School of Law in New York.

"In the absence of satisfactory proposals in the short term, I would be obliged to continue with our formal proceedings," he said.

A Google spokesman on Thursday said the company continues "to work cooperatively with the European Commission."

In a separate matter, Mr. Almunia said the EU also is prepared to move forward with enforcement actions after it found that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) violated an agreement to offer users a choice of Internet browser.

The company ultimately may face fines or other penalties for its failure to implement a browser-choice screen in its latest version of Windows, which was rolled out in February 2011, he said, adding that it is too early to say exactly what kind of enforcement action the antitrust agency ultimately would choose.

Mr. Almunia said Microsoft had confirmed that it didn't include a choice screen last year. The EU reached a settlement with Microsoft in 2009 after more than a decade of investigations that included 1.64 billion euros ($2.14 billion) in fines, and Mr. Almunia said it has been hailed as a landmark case.

A spokesperson at Microsoft referred to a statement made in July, in which the company said that the failure to include a browser-choice screen was due to a technical error, and that it was taking steps to fix the problem.

"The company has not kept its commitments," Mr. Almunia said. "For around one and a half years, millions of users in the European Union have not seen the choice screen...I take compliance seriously."

--Amir Efrati and Shira Ovide contributed to this article.