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Google showing progress in meeting EU's competition concerns, says antitrust chief

Tim Maytom

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has said that Google had made several improvements in its efforts to increase competition in online shopping, following the EU's record-breaking fine of the search giant last year.

The €2.42bn (£2.1bn) fine focused on Google Shopping, the tech firm's online commerce platform. A lengthy EU investigation found that Google was favouring its own price-comparison service over rivals in search results, leading to the fine. Among the concessions Google has offered since the fine are allowing rival services to bid for advertising space at the top of the search page.

Google submitted a second progress report to the EU Competition Commission at the end of September, showing the additional steps it had taken to comply. Failure to meet the competition authority's order could result in fines of up to five per cent of its average daily global revenue, which the company is understandably eager to avoid.

During a briefing at the Globsec Tatra Summit, Vestager commented on Google's progress, saying that she had seen further improvements since its first report in June.

"We had another compliance report... and we see improvements in numbers but we are still following it very, very closely, and have taken no decision yet," said Vestager. "I take a keen interest in what some of the other shopping comparison services say. Having met with a couple of them, of course that raises new questions for us."

Google is reportedly offering discounted shopping advertisements to rival price comparison services as part of its compliance efforts, but a number of competitors in the UK, France, Germany and the US have said that Google's changes have not gone far enough yet.