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Google has saved itself from massive fine by agreeing to make concessions on how it displays competitors’ links on its website. The deal with the European Union regulator means the world’s dominant search engine has avoided a process that could have led to a fine of up to $5 billion, or 10% of its 2012 revenue. It must stick to the deal for the next five years. The deal has also ended a three-year antitrust probe.
However, the hassle of Google is far from over as it still faces a second EU investigation, into its Android operating system for smartphones, with potentially bigger risks for the company.
Google has been the subject of a European Commission investigation into its internet search practices since November 2010, when more than a dozen complainants, including Microsoft, accused the company of promoting its own services at their expense.
Under the settlement, Google, which has a 75 percent share of the European search market according to consultancy comScore, will let three rivals display their logos and web links in a prominent box, and content providers will be able to decide what material Google can use for its own services.
Google will also scrap restrictions that prevent advertisers from moving their campaigns to rival platforms such as Yahoo!’s search tool and Microsoft’s Bing. The deal only applies to Europe.
Competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia has said he would accept Google’s latest concessions without consulting the complainants, prompting a furious response from critics.