Gloves off, Microsoft pushes antitrust review of Google
Microsoft has confirmed it had a hand in helping bring about a European antitrust investigation of its Web competitor, Google. Freshly empowered by its search alliance with Yahoo, Microsoft said--in its most vocal criticism of Google yet--that the world has a new monopolist to watch in the search engine giant.
“Our concerns relate only to Google practices that tend to lock in business partners and content (like Google Books) and exclude competitors, thereby undermining competition more broadly,” wrote Dave Heiner, Microsoft’s vice president and deputy general counsel in a blog post last Friday. “Ultimately the competition law agencies will have to decide whether or not Google’s practices should be seen as illegal.”
Heiner said Microsoft has been talking to regulators in the U.S. and the European Commission about Google’s dominance in search and advertising as part of separate discussions on Microsoft's search alliance with Yahoo. The Justice Department and E.C. approved the search partnership last month.
In those reviews, Microsoft is stressing the difficulty of competing against Google, which it said tends to lock in publishers and advertisers as partners. That makes it difficult for competitors like Bing and Yahoo to gain traction.
Google’s search market share in the U.S. is about 65 percent, compared to a combined 28 percent by Yahoo and Microsoft, according to Comscore.
“As you might expect, the competition officials asked us a lot of questions about competition with Google—since that is the focus of the partnership,” Heiner wrote. “Some of that inevitably gets into Google practices that may be harming publishers, advertisers and competition in search and online advertising.”
Microsoft owns Ciao, one of three European Web firms that filed complaints against Google to the E.C.’s competition bureau.The three firms complained about search ranking results by Google, the terms and conditions of its AdSense program.
Heiner wrote in the blog that Microsoft has encouraged other corporate critics of Google to air their concerns with antitrust watchdogs. The E.C. said last week it has launched an informal review of Google’s search business and practices in Europe. The Justice Department has criticized a digital book search settlement that could give Google exclusive rights to millions of titles over competitors like Microsoft and Amazon.
Google made the announcement of the E.C. antitrust review in a blog posting last week and said it hasn’t been anti-competitive. But it said such scrutiny comes with the territory of being a big company. In a separate blog, the company explained how its search ranking system works in an attempt to debunk claims by critics that the rankings were rigged to hurt competitors.
March 1, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Antitrust , DOJ , FTC , Google , International , Microsoft
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