Microsoft files antitrust complaint with EC against Google

31 Mar 2011

Microsoft has filed a formal complaint with the European Commission against Google, claiming the search company has “violated European competition law.”

The legal filing was revealed by Microsoft’s senior vice-president and general counsel Brad Smith in a blog post.

While Smith compliments Google for its innovations and engineering prowess, he says Microsoft would be joining other companies in registering complaints claiming Google has violated European competition law, which has given it 95pc of the search market in Europe.

This is compared to its share in the US, where Microsoft says its search engine Bing serves one-quarter of the American market.

“At Microsoft, we’ve shown that we’re prepared to work hard and invest literally billions of dollars annually to offer Bing, a search service that many now regard as the most innovative available,” says Smith.

“But, hard work and innovation need a fair and competitive marketplace in which to thrive, and twice the Department of Justice has intervened to thwart Google’s unlawful conduct from impeding fair competition.”

Cases violating competition law

The cases he referred to are in regards to how Google set search advertising prices at Yahoo! and at Google efforts to monopolise book content.

Microsoft’s filing details other instances where Google allegedly “impedes competition,” including claims that Google’s acquisition of YouTube resulted in the company implementing technical measures to restrict competing search engines from properly accessing the video site.

Microsoft also claims Google has blocked Windows Phone 7 devices from accessing metadata within YouTube, noting the service works well for Google’s own Android OS and also iPhones, because Apple does not have a competing search engine. This has caused the Windows Phone 7 YouTube ‘app’ to simply be a browser display on its mobile site.

The company says Google is restricting advertisers from using its data with other search advertising platforms and that it also contractually blocks websites in Europe from distributing competing search boxes.

The irony of Microsoft’s complaint against Google

Smith does note some may point out “the irony” of Microsoft’s filing, as they, too, have been subject to antitrust complaints in the past.

In 1993, Novell filed a complaint saying Microsoft’s licence practices asked for royalties of each PC sold by a Microsoft supplier, regardless of whether or not it had a Microsoft OS on it. Sun Microsystems also complained in 1998 about the lack of disclosure of some of the interfaces to Windows NT.

In 2009, the EU said it would investigate how Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer with each PC with Windows on it, saying it harmed competition.

“Having spent more than a decade wearing the shoe on the other foot with the European Commission, the filing of a formal antitrust complaint is not something we take lightly,” says Smith. 

“This is the first time Microsoft Corporation has ever taken this step. More so than most, we recognise the importance of ensuring that competition laws remain balanced and that technology innovation moves forward,” he says.