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Google reportedly offers search results changes in EU probe

Package of concessions includes clear labeling of its own products in search results, as well as prominent placement of rivals' services, sources tell The Wall Street Journal.

Google has proposed an overhaul of how it displays search results in Europe to allay concerns that the Web giant is abusing its dominant position in the market.

The search behemoth, which was put under the European antitrust spotlight in 2010 after rivals lodged allegations of anticompetitive behavior, submitted a package of concessions with the European Union last week, but details remain under wraps. Critics and competitors have accused Google of promoting its own services in search results over those of its competitors.

In its proposed remedy, Google has offered to "make users clearly aware" when the search giant is promoting its own specialized products through the use of special labels, a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the deal. When it does promote one of its own services, the Web giant has also promised prominent display of at least three relevant links to rivals' services, such as Yelp or TripAdvisor, the Journal reported.

However, that provision would not apply to some of Google's specialized-search sites, such as Google Shopper and Google Flight, in which participants pay for listings, the Journal reported. Although in those cases, rival specialized search sites can pay for placement.

As with its recent settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Google would allow other sites to remove their content from specialized, or "vertical," search sites. Also, as with Google's FTC settlement, the search giant's prized search algorithm would be unaffected.

A person familiar with the matter told CNET that Google's proposal had been accepted and that market testing of the concessions would begin soon.

Google declined to address the Journal's report, stating, "We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission."

EU competition chief Joaquin Almunia told The New York Times last week that Google had submitted proposals he hoped would help consumers better identify when Google was promoting its own products over those of competitors. The package of concessions was reportedly submitted as Google faced a new round of antitrust scrutiny from the EU, this time for Android.

A new complaint was filed by Fairsearch Europe, a group of companies that includes Microsoft, Nokia, and Oracle. It accuses Google of using Android "as a deceptive way to build advantages for key Google apps in 70 percent of the smartphones shipped today."