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Almunia says won't rush Google antitrust decision

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU regulators are in no rush to decide any antitrust charges against Google, in a complicated investigation into complaints by rivals about its search results, the EU's competition chief said on Friday.

The European Commission launched a probe into Google in November 2010 after rivals, including Microsoft, accused the company of manipulating search results and promoting its own services, while demoting theirs.

"We are not yet there. This is a complex case," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters on the sidelines of a competition conference. "We are not in a hurry. We are very serious" about the investigation.

Asked whether he had decided to formally charge Google by sending the company a statement of objections or charge sheet, Almunia said: "No."

Almunia had previously said he expected to receive a report on Google from his case team after Easter, which was on April 8, and would then decide on the next step. Asked whether he had the report, he said: "I receive a lot of reports."

A Google spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

There are currently 16 complaints against Google before the Commission, most of which relate to allegations of search result bias. The majority of the complainants are small European competitors, and the latest grievances come from several online travel agencies, including TripAdvisor, Opodo and eDreams.

Google has denied that it stifles competition. U.S. enforcers are also investigating Google, which has more than two-thirds of the global search market and 86 percent of the European market, according to online data tracking service comScore.

In a separate investigation, EU privacy regulators are scrutinizing Google's new privacy policy, which came into effect on March 1.

The Commission can fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover if they are found to have breached EU rules.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee. Editing by Sebastian Moffett and Mike Nesbit)

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