One More Complaint against Google to Be Filed

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This news has been mentioned in the Microsoft Technet blog yesterday. Apparently there is an ongoing investigation in the European Commission whether Google has violated European competition law.

Microsoft actually complemented Google “for its genuine innovations, of which there have been many over the past decade” before outlining all Google’s wrong doings.

As troubling as the situation is in United States, it is worse in Europe.  That is why our filing today focuses on a pattern of actions that Google has taken to entrench its dominance in the markets for online search and search advertising to the detriment of European consumers.The following half a dozen  of instances where Google is impending competition.

First, in 2006 Google acquired YouTube—and since then it has put in place a growing number of technical measures to restrict competing search engines from properly accessing it for their search results.  Without proper access to YouTube, Bing and other search engines cannot stand with Google on an equal footing in returning search results with links to YouTube videos and that, of course, drives more users away from competitors and to Google.

Second, in 2010 and again more recently, Google blocked Microsoft’s new Windows Phones from operating properly with YouTube. Google has enabled its own Android phones to access YouTube so that users can search for video categories, find favorites, see ratings, and so forth in the rich user interfaces offered by those phones.  It’s done the same thing for the iPhones offered by Apple, which doesn’t offer a competing search service.

Third, Google is seeking to block access to content owned by book publishers.  This was underscored in federal court in New York last week, in the decision involving Google’s effort to obtain exclusive and unfettered access to the large volume of so-called “orphan books”—books for which no copyright holder can readily be found.  Under Google’s plan only its search engine would be able to return search results from these books.  As the federal court said in rejecting this plan, “Google’s ability to deny competitors the ability to search orphan books would further entrench Google’s market power in the online search market.”  This is an important initial step under U.S. law, but it needs to be reinforced by similar positions in Europe and the rest of the world.

Fourth, Google is even restricting its customers’—namely, advertisers’—access to their own data.  Advertisers input large amounts of data into Google’s ad servers in the course of managing their advertising campaigns.  This data belongs to the advertisers:  it reflects their decisions about their own business.  But Google contractually prohibits advertisers from using their data in an interoperable way with other search advertising platforms, such as Microsoft’s adCenter.

Fifth, this undermining of competition is reflected in concerns that go beyond Google’s control over content.  One of the ways that search engines attract users is through distribution of search boxes through Web sites.  Unfortunately, Google contractually blocks leading Web sites in Europe from distributing competing search boxes.  It is obviously difficult for competing search engines to gain users when nearly every search box is powered by Google.  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.

Finally, we share the concerns expressed by many others that Google discriminates against would-be competitors by making it more costly for them to attain prominent placement for their advertisements.  Microsoft 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.

Source:  Adding our Voice to Concerns about Search in Europe

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