Google has reached a deal with the European Union antitrust regulators, that specifies how it must display competitors' links in its search results. This deal avoids further investigations and hearings that could have resulted in a fine as high as $5 billion.
According to the settlement (which is still pending formal approval by the European Commission), Google agreed to the harshest limitations to date in an antitrust inquiry anywhere. The settlement would force Google to give its competitors more prominence in specialized search results: according to the settlement Google would display results from at least three competitors each time it shows its own results for specialized searches related to things like shopping, restaurants and travel. In case of mobile ads Google would display results from one competitor alongside its own results. In some cases, competitors will pay when people click on these results: if Google is offerings its own services and is required to display competitors alongside, the competitors will not need to pay; however, in cases where Google is displaying advertising results competitors will also need to pay to appear alongside those of other results. Google would also eliminate some restrictions that have prevented advertisers from moving their ads to other companies’ services, and it would allow competitors like Yelp to prevent Google from using their content in its specialized search services, without being “penalized” for that in Google’s search rankings.
The settlement followed a three-year investigation after which the EU regulators concluded that Google's strategies violated the EU's antitrust laws. The investigation began after some of Google’s competitors complained that Google promoted its own services at their expense. The agreement would last for five years and apply to any new search products Google introduces in Europe.