Brussels

The three-year Brussels probe into Google’s search business seems to be meandering towards a thundering anticlimax. With every legal twist, revised settlement offer and procedural shuffle, the case is losing the zip that made it a cause célèbre in the antitrust world. The opposing camps, meanwhile, appear ever more entrenched and polarised. Nobody is satisfied.

 

Richard Waters

First, for Google’s opponents, let’s look on the bright side.

The company’s tentative deal with European regulators in April to head off a formal anti-trust complaint was, according to critics, worse than useless. In the words of Silicon Valley lawyer Gary Reback: “They were Nowheresville”.

Tuesday’s revised deal at least fixes the most glaring flaws. Whether it will do anything meaningful to change the competitive situation is another matter. 

Tim Bradshaw

If Googlers were in any doubt of the seriousness of the European Union’s investigation into the search engine’s business practices, the detailed questionnaire sent to advertising agencies this week should set them straight. 

Maija Palmer

It was only a matter of time before Brussels began looking at an antitrust complaint against Google. Murmurings of discontent about the dominant search engine have been going on for several years now, and recently there has been a rash of smaller cases against the company.

Three particular cases are being considered by the European Commission. A complaint by Foundem, a UK vertical search company, one from ejustice.fr, a French legal search site, and a complaint made initially in Germany by Ciao!, a vertical search site recently bought by Microsoft. 

Maija Palmer

Cookie“Don’t panic” – the words on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – should also be emblazoned on the front page of the EU telecoms package, which was voted through on Tuesday.

This update on European telecoms and internet legislation has been highly controversial. Profound division on issues,  such as whether persistent illegal downloaders can have their internet access cut off, had already delayed its passage by several months.

Then, in the few weeks run-up to its approval, a new panic emerged: Would the new laws force companies to completely change the way they use internet cookies?  

Richard Waters

Despite signs that the over-heated rhetoric is cooling down a bit, it’s too soon to predict a compromise in the transatlantic falling-out over Oracle’s plan to buy Sun.

European competition commissioner Neelie Kroes was more measured in her comments to reporters on Wednesday, suggesting that some sort of agreement might be possible that would protect competition in the database market and allow the dispute to blow over. That certainly sounded less punchy than her own spokesman’s attack on Oracle earlier in the week as “facile and superficial”.