Google search results changing in Europe

February 5, 2014: 9:29 AM ET
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Google is changing how search results will be displayed in Europe to settle an antitrust case.
LONDON (CNNMoney)

Google's search results in Europe will look very different after the company agreed to changes that should settle a long-running antitrust case.

Google (GOOG) has agreed to give more prominence to competitors such as Yahoo (YHOO), Microsoft (MSFT) and Expedia (EXPE), according to the European Commission, which regulates business competition in the region.

The Commission said in a statement that Google had guaranteed that whenever it promotes its own specialized search services on its web page, the services of three rivals will be displayed in a comparable way.

The EU's top antitrust official, Joaquín Almunia, said he was happy with Google's latest proposal, and it should put the issue to rest.

"Turning this proposal into a legally binding obligation for Google would ensure that competitive conditions are both restored quickly and maintained over the next years," he said.

Google General Counsel Kent Walker said the changes to operations were significant, and the company looked forward to resolving the case.

Related: Google's latest earnings show it is struggling with mobile

Almunia has been investigating Google since 2010, unhappy that the search engine giant gave too much prominence to its own content and blocked out competitors.

A legally binding agreement is expected soon, though competitors still get to weigh in with their views.

A lobby group backed by Microsoft and other tech companies said the proposals may not go far enough, and said they should be thoroughly market tested before Google is let off the hook.

"Without a third party review, Almunia risks having the wool pulled over his eyes by Google," the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace said in a statement.

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Almunia said in December that Google was running out of time to settle the case, indicating he might be ready to penalize the company.

The Commission has the power to impose fines of up to 10% of a company's global sales.

Related: Google's Eric Schmidt gets $106 million in bonuses

The U.S. government concluded a similar two-year investigation into Google in January 2013 with a ruling that the search engine company did not breach U.S. antitrust laws.

The outcome of the EU case means that Google search will look quite different in Europe compared to the U.S.

Google is still facing another EU investigation over its Android operating system, with competitors worried it is monopolizing the mobile marketplace and controlling consumer data.

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