EU seeks more Google concessions in antitrust case

BRUSSELS Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:43pm IST

Attendees sits in front of a Google logo during Google I/O Conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, California June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Attendees sits in front of a Google logo during Google I/O Conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, California June 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's antitrust chief warned Google (GOOG.O) it could face charges of breaching EU rules and a fine unless it did more to ease concerns it used its search clout to block rivals.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said concessions from Google, which is in talks with the European Commission to resolve complaints from competitors like Microsoft (MSFT.O), had not gone far enough.

"We are not there yet, and it must be clear that - in the absence of satisfactory proposals in the short term - I will be obliged to continue with our formal proceedings," he said in the text of a speech to be delivered at Fordham University in New York.

"If effective solutions were found quickly and tested successfully, competition could be restored at an early stage," he said.

The world's most popular search engine offered new concessions to the EU watchdog in July which covered computers, tablets and mobile devices but did not provide details.

Almunia has said he wants the proposals to be valid worldwide.

"We continue to work co-operatively with the Commission," said Google spokesman Al Verney.

The EU watchdog has said Google's search results may unfairly favour its services over its rivals' and that it may have copied material from other websites, such as travel and restaurant reviews, without permission.

U.S. regulators are also investigating Google.

Almunia also said he would decide "very soon" on Universal Music Group's (VIV.PA) $1.9 billion bid for EMI's recorded music business. Sources have told Reuters that an EU decision could come as early as Friday, ahead of a September 27 deadline.

Universal spokesman Peter Lofrumento said: "We're working with the commission and remain confident of gaining approval."

Almunia, who is investigating several patent disputes involving Google's Motorola Mobility, world No. 2 telecoms equipment maker Huawei HWT.UL and Samsung Electronics (005930.KS), urged the industry to resolve patent spats by itself rather than involve regulators where possible.

"I expect the leading companies in the sector not to misuse their intellectual property rights," he said.

"It is high time they look for negotiated solutions - I am tempted to call them 'peace talks' - that would put an end to the patent wars."

(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington; editing by Rex Merrifield and David Cowell)

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