Exclusive: Nine Google complainants in EU probe

BRUSSELS Tue Aug 2, 2011 1:10pm EDT

The Google logo is shown prior to the unveiling of the Nexus One Android smartphone at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California January 5, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The Google logo is shown prior to the unveiling of the Nexus One Android smartphone at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California January 5, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google faces a total of nine antitrust complaints which EU regulators are now investigating, two sources said on Tuesday, as rivals ramped up the pressure on the world No. 1 search engine.

The European Commission has up to now only confirmed four cases against Google. The addition of fresh complaints could broaden the EU watchdog's ongoing probe and pile pressure on the company to strike a settlement.

"The Commission has nine formal complaints now. The new complaints come from small companies," said one of the sources who declined to provide details because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The second source said three cases came from national regulators while two were fresh complaints.

The Commission said it had nothing to add and Google could not be reached for comment.

The increased number of complaints underscores Google's dominant position but does not necessarily mean bad news for the company, said Simon Holmes, head of EU and competition law at law firm SJ Berwin.

"Google's strong position means there are lots of interests involved. But there is nothing wrong per se in having a strong position," he said.

"The mere proliferation of complaints doesn't increase the likelihood of infringements. It means there are issues certain parties want to be investigated."

The Commission opened an investigation into Google in November last year following allegations by three small companies that Google demoted their sites in Web search engines because they were rivals.

Microsoft ratcheted up its rivalry with Google by filing its first-ever complaint to the EU watchdog in March this year, claiming that Google systematically blocked Internet search competition.

The Commission can fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover for breaching EU rules. It has in recent years imposed billion-euro penalties on Microsoft and Intel for anticompetitive behavior.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also investigating Google following accusations that it abused its market dominance. The U.S. Senate's antitrust panel will hold a hearing on Google's market clout on September 21.

(Editing by David Cowell)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (2)
Annamika wrote:
Google is never available for comment. That is their problem. Yes, they are too huge to respond to everyone but when they have taken your money above the maximum you have set your accounts to they need to answer as to why! As they are now they take from you and do not offer reasons or what you may have done so you can rectify the problem in future. Instead they just steal your money and shut you down. They allow people, companies etc the option of setting ads to run up to a certain amount of dollars and claim they stop running when your set maximum is reached but they don’t stop them. They keep them running they allow your bill to become exorbitantly higher than the limits you set within their system then they just take it from you. This is pure theft! I am happy to see Google is being investigated even on matters that may be a little different than what I have stated here. It’s about time they became accountable.

Aug 02, 2011 1:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Stupidscript wrote:
Annamika, it is clear that you do not understand marketing using a pay-per-click system. You should withdraw your campaign(s) and undertake some education before you blame Google for your poor results. Also, go ahead and give Google a call at 866-246-6453 to discuss how payments work, and what, specifically, your account(s) are doing.

Just because they are big does not mean that they are unresponsive. All you need to do is behave like a rational advertiser, and you will get your answers. I do it nearly every day, and have been running AdWords campaigns since AdWords started with great success.

As far as the EU goes … they may find conflicts with their rules, which are often quite different from the way things are done outside of the EU, but “antitrust” is more than a movie, and it will be interesting to see how the situation is massaged by the plaintiffs to create the illusion of “antitrust” conditions.

Aug 02, 2011 3:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.