Microsoft has quite a past with the European Commission when it comes to antitrust suits, but this time the company is on the other side of the court.
Microsoft last night announced that it was filing a formal complaint with the European Commission as part of the EC’s ongoing investigation into whether Google has violated European competition law.
Speaking via the company's Tech Net blog, Microsoft's Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Brad Smith, said that while Redmond recognizes and respects its competitor's many genuine innovations, engineering prowess and competitive drive, it was concerned about a "broadening pattern of conduct aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive alternative."
"We've therefore decided to join a large and growing number of companies registering their concerns about the European search market," said Smith. "By the European Commission's own reckoning, Google has about 95 percent of the search market in Europe. This contrasts with the United States, where Microsoft serves about a quarter of Americans' search needs either directly through Bing or through our partnership with Yahoo!."
Mr. Smith claims Microsoft has a number of complaints, half-a-dozen of which are detailed in his blog post. The first is Google's 2006 acquisition of YouTube. Smith says that for the last five years, Google has been making it more and more difficult for competing search engines to access YouTube for their search results.
Second on the agenda is the fact that Windows Phone 7 devices cannot operate 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," Brad writes, adding that iPhone users can do the same. He also implies that Apple was granted this access to YouTube because it doesn't compete with Google in the search market. "We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide."
The third complaint relates to Google's actions regarding its Google Books project. Here in the States, Google was last week denied exclusive access to the large volume of out-of-copyright books. Smith echoes the federal judge's ruling in stating that such an arrangement, which denies competitors the ability to search so-called "orphan books," would further entrench Google's market power in the online search market. Microsoft is calling for similar rulings to be handed down in the EU.
Fourth, Microsoft says Google is restricting advertisers' access to their own data, which in turn makes it more expensive for them to run portions of their campaigns on other search advertising platforms (such as Microsoft's adCenter). "That is a significant problem because most advertisers figure that they have to advertise first with Google," says Brad. "If it's too expensive to port their advertising campaign data to competing advertising platforms, many won't do it."
Second to last, Microsoft alleges that Google contractually blocks leading websites 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," says Smith, adding that Microsoft can't even distribute Windows Live services through European telecommunications companies because they're monetized through Bing search boxes.
Lastly, Microsoft is jumping on bandwagon that left the station in late-2010. In November of last year, several of Google's competitors accused Google of ranking them unfairly in search results and affording its own services preferential treatment.
Google said in a statement that it was "not surprised" Microsoft had filed the complaint and that it would continue to cooperate with the European Commission's investigation.
"We're not surprised that Microsoft has done this, since one of their subsidiaries was one of the original complainants. 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," the search giant said in a statement.