Microsoft Fires EU Antitrust Complaint Against Google

Microsoft has filed a formal antitrust complaint against Google with the European Commission, the same regulatory body that gave it so much antitrust trouble over Internet Explorer.

Microsoft is filing a formal complaint with the European Commission, insisting that arch-rival Google's competitive practices unfairly dominate the European search market.

"We're concerned by a broadening pattern of conduct aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive alternative," Brad Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel, wrote in a March 30 statement posted on the Microsoft on the Issues blog. "We've therefore decided to join a large and growing number of companies registering their concerns about the European search market."

Smith then unleashes a litany of complaints against Google: that the company restricts other search engines from properly cataloging YouTube videos in search results, that it prevents those YouTube videos from running well on Windows Phones, that it blocks access to book publishers' content, that it restricts advertisers' access to their own data.

"Advertising revenue is the economic propellant fueling the billions of dollars needed for ongoing search investments," he wrote. "By reducing competitors' ability to attract advertising revenue, this restriction strikes at the heart of a competitive market."

Microsoft also claims that Google "contractually blocks leading Websites in Europe from distributing competing search boxes," and that it "discriminates" against competitors by ratcheting up the price for prominent placement in Google advertisements.

This represents Microsoft's first-ever antitrust filing with the European Commission. It comes as something of an irony, considering how that same regulatory body pursued Microsoft for years over the supposed anti-competitive practices related to Internet Explorer. Under pressure, Microsoft eventually released a "Web browser choice screen" designed to give Windows users in the European Union a selection of browsers other than IE.

Google already had a response to Microsoft's filing.

"We're not surprised that Microsoft has done this, since one of their subsidiaries was one of the original complainants," a Google spokesperson wrote in a March 31 email to eWEEK. "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."

By "one of their subsidiaries," the spokesperson is referring to Ciao! from Bing, an online-community portal aimed at a handful of Western European markets. In February 2010, the European Commission notified Google that Ciao, along with U.K. price-comparison Website Foundem and French legal search engine, had filed complaints about Google's effect on European search-engine competition. Foundem is a member of ICOMP, a lobbying group sponsored by Microsoft.

In other words, this conflict has gone on for some time-and based on Microsoft's filing, looks to continue for some time to come.