In the face of antitrust charges, Google’s new guiding principle for dispute resolution is “Don’t litigate, negotiate,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
In recent years, U.S. and European regulators have accused Google of abusing its dominance in online searches by promoting its own services, such as Google Shopping, at the expense of its competitors’ services. Rival comparison-sites such as Nextag complain that Google lists their products far below Google Shopping results, where they are less likely be found, in consumer searches.
Last year, Google avoided formal charges by the Federal Trade Commission by agreeing to make small changes to its search practices. This February, Google reached a similar deal with European Commission regulators, promising to reserve space high on its European search pages for competitors to offer their own search results, albeit only after paying Google for the space. The rivals’ offerings would be shaded and marked as “alternatives.”
The deal allows Google to avoid an official probe and a potential fine of up to 10% of its global annual revenue, which was $59.8 billion in 2013, according to the Journal. Google competitors, including Microsoft and Nokia, said the settlement terms did not go far enough.
In stark contrast to Google’s strategy of negotiation as dispute resolution, Microsoft fought European antitrust charges for a decade, a battle that ultimately cost the company more than $2.5 billion in fines.
Over the course of the three-year European investigation, Google worked closely with regulators, at times flying its engineers to Brussels, Belgium, to describe the intricacies of its products. After two earlier tentative agreements fell apart in the face of criticism, Google offered “slightly sweetened deals,” the Journal reports. Both sides said they had been eager to avoid a court battle.
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