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EU decision on Google verdict 'in coming weeks'

(BRUSSELS) - The EU executive will "in the coming weeks" decide a course of action following concern that Internet giant Google may be in breach of anti-trust rules, Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.

"Time is of the essence, and in the coming weeks I will take a decision," Almunia said according to the text of a speech he was delivering in Florence on Friday.

Almunia said he would have to decide over "transforming Google's proposals into legally binding commitments", or alternatively taking the "route towards a standing objection and a possible negative decision."

The European Commission said earlier this week that Google has submitted new proposals to remedy EU concerns that it is abusing its dominant position in the search market.

The EU's executive arm had identified four main areas of concern, chief among them that Google gives preference in its search results to its own services, such as surveys of restaurants or hotels.

Almunia said in the speech that it was his responsibility to ensure that Google did not abuse its gatekeeper role to push its own services against those of competitors.

"As you know, we want to find effective solutions to our concerns, so as to preserve competition in the coming years between these services."

Commission tests of a first Google proposal last spring came back negative.

Accordingly, in July Almunia wrote to Google chief Eric Schmidt to demand that Google improve its proposals.

Brussels launched its investigation of Google in November 2010 following a complaint by several companies, including Microsoft.

A company found at fault in an EU anti-trust probe can face fines of up to 10 percent of its total annual sales.

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