Google said to offer to sell rivals space in bid to appease EU

by BLOOMBERG

Google is offering to sell slots on its shopping search service to rivals in a bid to appease European Union regulators and avoid further antitrust fines, according to two people with knowledge of the case.

The offer mirrors what the Alphabet Inc. unit suggested to the European Commission in 2013 to settle the investigation without fines, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity. That triggered an outcry from smaller competitors claiming they would have to pay to display their links in a box of shopping search results usually displayed at the top of the screen.

Google was ordered by regulators to stop promoting its own shopping search results over competitors’ and to make changes designed to give rivals fairer treatment by Sept. 28, the EU said in June when it fined the company 2.4 billion euros ($2.9 billion). The company could be fined up to 5 percent of daily revenue if it fails to comply.

Google declined to comment and the commission didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Reuters reported earlier on the Google offer on Monday.

Foundem, a U.K. shopping search service that complained to the EU about Google, criticized the idea of an offer including auctions.

It said auctions would “simply create an additional anti-competitive barrier — one that would formalize the transformation of free, relevance-based traffic into paid, pay-for-placement traffic for all services but Google’s own.”