Microsoft said on Thursday that they are filing a formal complaint with the European Commission.
The complaint is part of an ongoing investigation in the EU into whether Google has violated European competition law. Microsoft’s Senior Vice President & General Counsel Brad Smith penned his thoughts on the filing in a company blog post on Thursday. “At the outset, we should be among the first to compliment Google for its genuine innovations,” said Smith. “But we’re concerned by a broadening pattern of conduct aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive alternative.”
The result is that Microsoft plans to join a number of companies in registering their concerns about the European search market. Google dominates the search market in Europe with around 95% market share.
“Google has built its business on indexing and displaying snippets of other organizations’ Web content. It understands as well as anyone that search engines depend upon the openness of the Web in order to function properly, and it’s quick to complain when others undermine this. Unfortunately, Google has engaged in a broadening pattern of walling off access to content and data that competitors need to provide search results to consumers and to attract advertisers.
On PCs it is usually not difficult for people to navigate to any search engine. Google in fact makes this point virtually every time someone raises antitrust concerns about their practices. Their defense ignores the hugely important fact that there are many other important ways that search services compete. Search engines compete to index the Web as fully as possible so they can generate good search results, they compete to gain advertisers (the source of revenue in this business), and they compete to gain distribution of their search boxes through Web sites. Consumers will not benefit from clicking to alternative sites unless all search engines have a fair opportunity to compete in each of these areas.
Our filing details many instances where Google is impeding competition in these areas.”
Smith details a number of examples of concern:
Google acquired YouTube – puts in place technical measures to restrict competing search engines
Google blocked Microsoft’s new Windows Phones from operating properly with YouTube
Google is seeking to block access to content owned by book publishers
Google is restricting advertisers from accessing their own data
Google contractually blocks leading Web sites in Europe from distributing competing search boxes
Google discriminates against would-be competitors by making it more costly for them to attain prominent placement for their advertisements
Microsoft has experienced a turbulent time with the European Union over the years. The European Commission ordered Microsoft to pay $794 million in fines and product a version of Windows without Windows Media Player in March 2004 following years of complaints from competitors. Microsoft fought the judgement and eventually bowed to pressure from the EU by announcing Windows XP Home Edition N in March, 2005. The new rules also impacted Windows Vista and Microsoft was forced to create separate versions of Windows Vista in accordance with EU sanctions brought against the company for violating anti-trust laws.
Microsoft points out the irony in Thursday’s filing:
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. This is the first time Microsoft Corporation has ever taken this step. More so than most, we recognize the importance of ensuring that competition laws remain balanced and that technology innovation moves forward.