Pressure grows for Google in Europe as Microsoft files antitrust complaint

Pressure grows for Google in Europe as Microsoft files antitrust complaint

The pressure on Google in Europe is growing as the company today faces a powerful new voice in the European Commission’s investigation into anticompetitive behaviour in the European market – Microsoft.

What’s particularly interesting here is that Microsoft has come out all guns blazing for the first time against its biggest competitor in the search market. It’s not the company’s first involvement in the Commission’s investigation though; its own Ciao service was one of the original complainants in the case back in November 2010.

Microsoft argues that Google has “engaged in a broadening pattern of walling off access to content and data that competitors need to provide search results to consumers and to attract advertisers.” Particularly, it accuses Google of:

  • Restricting rival search engines from indexing YouTube videos properly.
  • Excluding Windows Phone handsets from accessing YouTube clips as easily as they can be on Android and iOS devices.
  • Unfairly planning to exclusively index ‘orphan’ books which have no known copyright holder. This plan has been thrown out by the US federal court but Microsoft say that a similar ruling is required in Europe.
  • Denying AdWords advertisers the right to export data about the campaigns from the service in a way that can be transferred to rival platforms such as Microsoft adCenter. This, Microsoft says, makes moving on from AdWords to a competing service prohibitively expensive.
  • Contractually blocking European websites from distributing competing search boxes if they already carry a Google one. “Google’s exclusivity terms have even blocked Microsoft from distributing its Windows Live services, such as email and online document storage, through European telecommunications companies because these services are monetized through Bing search boxes,” it says.
  • Charging too much for competing services to get prominently placed ads. Microsoft says it has “provided the Commission with a considerable body of expert analysis concerning how search engine algorithms work and the competitive significance of promoting or demoting various advertisements.”

Microsoft is good-humoured enough to note the irony of today’s announcement but says “Having spent more than a decade wearing the shoe on the other foot with the European Commission, the filing of a formal antitrust complaint is not something we take lightly.”

Google has previously been reported to be in talks with the European Commission over the investigation, which began in November with complaints from three European vertical search engines before expanding to cover news and mapping practices following additional complaints in December. The formal arrival of Microsoft on the scene may well throw out any hope Google had of a swift end to the probe.

A Google spokesperson said: “We’re not surprised that Microsoft has done this, since one of their subsidiaries was one of the original complainants. For our part, we continue to discuss the case with the European Commission and we’re happy to explain to anyone how our business works.”

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