EU vs. Google: 'Antitrust issue will remain on our desks for some time'

Key Points
  • Google says it will bid for ads against rivals for slots in the shopping section of search results
  • It's a response to the record 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) fine dished out by the European Union after Google was accused of abusing its market dominance
  • But the European Commission says the issue is likely to drag on for a while
European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager holds a news conference at EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, July 14, 2016.
Francois Lenoir | Reuters

European Union (EU) regulators told CNBC Thursday that it is "premature" to make a decision on whether Google's attempt to remedy its antitrust violation on its shopping service is sufficient.

Google was fined a record 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in June by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm. It was accused of abusing its market dominance in search "by giving illegal advantages" to its shopping service — the shopping results that appear at the top of the Google page when you search for an item.

The company, which is owned by parent Alphabet, had until September 28 to remedy the practices that were deemed anticompetitive.

On Wednesday, Google announced some concessions. It said price comparison competitors could bid for ad space in the shopping box at the top of the results page. This might mean that other price comparison sites' ads displaying products could appear.

"We're giving comparison shopping services the same opportunity to show shopping ads from merchants on Google's search results pages as we give to Google Shopping," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

"Google Shopping will compete on equal terms and will operate as if it were a separate business, participating in the auction in the same way as everyone else," he said. The changes will go into effect on Thursday and apply only in Europe."

But the Commission is reserving judgement for now. In a statement to CNBC, a spokesperson for Margrethe Vestager, the EU's Competition Commissioner, said the Commission has taken note of Google's announcement.

"The clear principle set out in the Commission's decision is that Google has to give equal treatment to rival comparison shopping services and its own service — not more, not less. It is up to Google to achieve and implement that equal treatment," the spokesperson told CNBC.

"It would be premature at this stage for the Commission to take any definite positions on Google's plans. As Commissioner Vestager said: 'This issue will remain on our desks for some time.'"

The Commission said it will "closely monitor" Google's compliance with its decision and the search giant is "under an obligation" to keep the organization informed of its actions by submitted reports every four months.