Google hit with new antitrust complaint in Europe
IDG News Service - French company 1plusV has accused Google of stopping smaller competitors from generating advertising revenue by abusing its dominant position in the search market. The company said it made the allegations in a complaint filed with European Union antitrust authorities on Tuesday.
The European Commission confirmed on Tuesday that it had received a fresh complaint against Google.
However, the Commission said it would give Google time to react before deciding whether to move forward.
Google is already the subject of an antitrust investigation that the Commission launched last November after three complainants accused the search giant of demoting rival sites in search results and giving preference to its own services. The latest complainant, 1PlusV, is the parent company of one of the original complainants, French search engine eJustice.fr.
The substance of the new complaint is very similar to the one made last year. 1plusV says that Google repeatedly delisted Ejustice.fr pages on its search engine between 2007 and 2009, and it claims that it has evidence of a series of new abuses plus additional proof of the abuses that it alleged in last year's complaint.
The latest complaint comes just days after competitors were to return questionnaires pertaining to the original investigation. The Commission sent out questionnaires to advertisers, publishers, Web site owners and rival search engines in December, asking for their views on Google's business practices by Feb. 11.
The forms have nearly 100 questions to determine whether Google's algorithm unfairly penalizes rival companies. One of the questions asks: "Has your company noticed sudden and significant changes in its ranking on search engines like Bing, Google or Yahoo? Have you noticed any sudden drops in the number of users sent to your services by Google that cannot be explained by changes on your website?"
With such a huge amount of information to sift through, the Commission is expected to take several months to reach a conclusion. Furthermore, the Commission has stressed that it is still only investigating to determine if competition rules were broken.
Google is talking to the Commission to attempt to bring the investigation to a swift resolution. A probe of Microsoft by European regulators lasted more than 10 years, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt said recently that his company has no stomach for such a lengthy legal battle.
"We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission, explaining many aspects of our business. We believe there is always room for improvement, so we are working to address any potential concerns," said Google spokesman Al Verney, referring to the new complaint on Tuesday.
Google sources said last year that Microsoft has a hand in two of the original complaints -- the ones filed by Ciao and Foundem. Microsoft owns Ciao.
In the E.U., Google controls more than 80% of the online search market. The company already faces separate antitrust inquiries in Italy, Germany and France. The Commission can fine companies up to 10% of their global turnover for breaching E.U. rules.
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