A new front just opened up in Google’s broadening battle against those who see it as engaged in anti-competitive practices in Europe.
European law firm Hausfeld & Co. LLP and public affairs consultancy Avisa Partners joined forces to launch a Website to help companies sue Google for anti-competitive behavior in the European Union.
The site is dubbed GRIP, for Google Redress & Integrity Platform, and is designed to give victims of Google’s alleged anti-competitive businesses practices a mechanism for evaluating potential civil lawsuit claims against the company, according to a statement announcing the initiative.
GRIP will cover all major Google services, including Search, YouTube, Shopping and Android, the statement said.
“GRIP supports the European Commission’s initiative to promote private enforcement actions across the continent and expand the legal rules facilitating redress for individuals and companies across all EU Member States,” Hausfeld and Avisa said in the release.
Its mission will be to help organizations assess the viability of their civil lawsuit claims against Google, and see if they have a basis for obtaining redress from the company.
“GRIP’s platform will also provide information on representation and legal services in relation to both the EC and other competition watchdogs and regulators,” the two companies behind the effort noted.
Companies that suspect they have a case against Google will be able to confidentially share their information with GRIP. Avisa will do an initial appraisal of cases with the potential to move ahead and then refer them to Haufeld for further legal assessment.
Both companies claim that GRIP is not a lobbying effort and that no big competitor of Google is behind it. But both Haufeld and Avisa have links to companies that have sued Google for anti-competitive practices.
For instance, Avisa officials said it is assisting French Internet search firm 1plusV, a company whose complaints against Google contributed to the EU’s decision to launch the anti-trust investigation. Hausfeld, meanwhile, currently represents Foundem, a U.K.-based vertical search company and one of the original complainants against Google.
GRIP could add to Google’s growing headaches in the EU where the company is under scrutiny for a range of anti-competitive practices.
In April, EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager filed a formal Statement of Objections against Google accusing the company of giving too much prominence to its Google Shopping site in search engine results to the detriment of rival comparison shopping sites.
Vestager has noted that if she finds the company infringed EU competition laws with its Google Shopping site, she could broaden the investigation and look at Google’s other services, as well.
Google itself has steadfastly denied the allegations and insisted that the manner in which it handles the comparison-shopping site is not anti-competitive. In a formal response last week to Vestager’s charges, Google claimed that those complaining against it had actually benefited from Google search, rather than been hurt by it.
The company has maintained that, instead of diverting traffic away from rivals, Google search has actually boosted traffic to rival comparison-shopping sites over the past several years.
Google did not comment on the latest development.