Google offers to cut charge to rivals to settle EU probe

BRUSSELS — Google Inc. cut the minimum amount it would seek to charge rivals to show their links in its latest offer to settle a European Union antitrust probe, according to an EU official.

While the minimum reserve price to bid for links to appear as an answer to specialized search queries would go down to 4 cents per click from 14 cents, users would have the option to hide alternative search sites, said the official, who isn’t authorized to be cited by name, in line with EU policy.

Competitors of Google, the world’s largest search engine, got details of the company’s proposal on Monday.


The latest round of commitments may allow EU regulators to end a three-year probe into how Google promotes its specialist search services, such as Google News and Google Finance, copies competitors’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry.

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A group representing Microsoft, Expedia, and Nokia said the offer still isn’t enough.

‘‘It seems that no genuinely significant changes have been made to the initial proposal, so it is difficult to see how the new package can hope to solve the competition concerns’’ EU Antitrust Commissioner Joaquin Almunia ‘‘has declared must be addressed,’’ Thomas Vinje, a Brussels-based lawyer for FairSearch Europe, said in a statement.

Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., said that it has made significant changes to its offer to address the EU’s concerns, including increasing the visibility of rival services.

‘‘Unfortunately, our competitors seem less interested in resolving things than in entangling us in a never-ending dispute,’’ Al Verney, a Brussels-based spokesman for Google, said in a statement.


The EU sent the latest version of the Google offer to all companies and groups that responded to the previous commitments earlier this year. They all have four weeks to reply.

Almunia has said positive feedback would allow him to make the new offer legally binding for five years. He said this month that he’d sought the improvements after ‘‘very negative’’ responses from rivals to an offer Google made earlier this year.