LONDON – Microsoft is filing a formal complaint with the European Commission as part of an ongoing investigation into whether Google breaks anti-competition laws in the European Union.
The news was released Wednesday (March 30) through a blog posting by Brad Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel. Smith alleges 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."
Smith argues that one reason for filing a complaint against Google in Europe is because Google's behavior here is more extreme. In the U.S. Smith said Microsoft's Bing search engine has about a 25 percent market share but Google has about 95 percent of the search market in Europe.
Smith acknowledges there is an irony to the present situation in that Microsoft spent over a decade being investigated and disputing with the European Commission over anti-competitive behavior. In 2004 Microsoft was fined 497 million euro (about $800 million then and about $700 million today). In 2008 Microsoft was fined an additional 899 million euro (about $1.44 billion then and about $1.27 billion today).
Smith gives six examples to support the allegation that Google is hurting competition.
1) Google has made efforts to block other search engines access to YouTube, Smith claims, with the effect that competitors cannot cite the results which thus favoring Google search.
2) Google has blocked Windows mobile phone operating system from being able to play YouTube videos while the Android and Apple iPhone operating systems can, Smith alleges. He points out that Apple does not have a rival search engine.
3) Google is seeking to block search access to certain so-called orphan books except through its search engine, a plan rejected by a U.S. Federal court, Smith said.
4) Another claim is that Google restricts its advertizing customers access to data about their own advertisements, thus increasing the cost of using rival online advertizing platforms
5) Smith said that in Europe Google contractually prevents leading websites from distributing competing search boxes.
6) And finally Smith alleges there is evidence that Google operates a discriminatory advertizing pricing policy that operates against would-be competitors.
In his postng Smith concludes: "We readily appreciate that Google should continue to have the freedom to innovate. But it shouldn’t be permitted to pursue practices that restrict others from innovating and offering competitive alternatives. That’s what it’s doing now. And that’s what we hope European officials will assess and ultimately decide to stop."
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