Microsoft adds complaint to EU antitrust investigation of Google

microsoft antitrust

Microsoft has joined Google's European rivals in a complaint that has triggered an antitrust investigation against the search engine giant. Image: CC Titanas/Flickr

European Union authorities launched an antitrust investigation against Google in November. Smaller European web companies, some owned by Microsoft, accused Google of shutting them out of search engine results and other anti-competitive practices. On Thursday Microsoft stood behind some of its subsidiaries and filed its own complaint against Google with the EU.

Microsoft’s antitrust complaint against Google

Alleging that Google is limiting its access to critical data it needs to compete using YouTube and other Google services to the detriment of European consumers, Microsoft filed a formal antitrust complaint in Europe against Google. Microsoft’s complaint against Google throws its weight behind an ongoing antitrust investigation by the European Union Competition Commission. Google controls about 95 percent of the Internet search market in Europe while Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, swims with the other minnows. Google, which has become Europe’s central online hub for advertisers, has also grown accustomed to European antitrust complaints about competition among search engines. After fighting antitrust investigations into Windows and billions in fines from the European Commission for years, Microsoft has reversed roles with its complaint against Google.

Has Bing drawn Google’s wrath?

Microsoft’s European antitrust complaint against Google is about background technologies such as “application programming interfaces” that unlock access to Google products and services. Microsoft alleges that Google fiddles with the application programming interfaces to interfere with access to YouTube by Bing and other competing search engines, thus herding their users toward Google. In particular, Microsoft said Google thwarts Windows Phones from working correctly with YouTube — problems Android and iPhone users don’t experience. Microsoft suspects that Windows Phones are getting the short shrift because of Bing because Apple does not compete with Google in the search engine market. Microsoft also alleges that Google blocks some advertisers from access to data they need to optimize advertising on rival platforms, allegations already being investigated by the EU antitrust probe.

Microsoft raises stakes in Google probe

An EU Commission spokesman said it will give Google an opportunity to tell its side of the story. Google has said the restraint on third-party software is to maintain the consistency of Google’s ad service and that advertisers are allowed unfettered access to data. But Microsoft’s involvement in Europe raises the stakes. Google could face a fine of up to 10 percent of annual global revenues, which exceeded $29 billion in 2010. It could also be forced to change the way it does business in Europe. Before Microsoft threw its hat into the ring, the EU commission said it would give Google a chance to avoid a fine or conviction of wrongdoing by changing the way it does business in Europe.


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