Google Inc. has reached a tentative settlement with European antitrust regulators to end an investigation into allegations it abused its search-engine dominance to promote its own services over those of rivals.
The deal, announced Wednesday in Brussels, could end a lengthy probe and allow Google to avoid a large fine and other penalties from European regulators.
Under the settlement, Google has promised that whenever it promotes its own specialized services in search results, it also will promote the services of three competitors, the European Union’s competition commissioner said.
Microsoft Corp. and other Google rivals had complained to European regulators that Google was treating rival services differently in search results than it did its own, squelching competition for restaurant reviews, airfare shopping and other services.
“My mission is to protect competition to the benefit of consumers, not competitors,” said Joaquin Almunia, the European Commission’s vice president in charge of competition policy.
“I believe that the new proposal obtained from Google after long and difficult talks can now address the commission’s concerns,” he said. “Without preventing Google from improving its own services, it provides users with real choice between competing services presented in a comparable way; it is then up to them to choose the best alternative.”
Almunia had warned Google last month that it needed to agree to a settlement in the three-year-long investigation or face a formal complaint process that could result in a large fine and tougher conditions for doing business in Europe.
Google’s rivals have complained that previous settlement offers by the company did not adequately address their concerns.