The European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia began investigating Google in 2010, and in May of this year warned the company it needed to quickly propose changes to several practices — notably including the way it promotes its own offerings in search results — or face possible fines.
“We have made a proposal to address the four areas the European Commission described as potential concerns,” said Al Verney, a Google spokesman in Brussels. “We continue to work cooperatively with the commission.”
Almunia’s spokesman, Antoine Columbani, confirmed receiving a letter from Schmidt on Monday, but did not disclose details.
It is not clear what changes Google has offered to make. The four areas the Commission criticized were: how Google favors its own services in its search results, how it displays content from other websites, how it manages the ads appearing next to its search results, and how its actions affect marketers’ ability to buy ads on rival networks.
If a settlement isn’t reached and the European Commission files a case against Google, it will set the stage for a lengthy process that could result in the company being fined up to 10 percent of its annual revenue. In theory that could mean a fine of as much as $3.8 billion, based on Google’s revenue last year.
But in a shift of tactics from previous commissioners, Almunia said in May he would prefer to end market abuses as soon as possible, rather than fine misbehavior retroactively, especially in the Internet industry.