Google Faces Antitrust Issues in Europe

By Devon Glenn 

Google faces the possibility of an antitrust lawsuit in Europe, where the company has a 90 percent monopoly on search. On behalf of the European commission, head of competition policy Joaquin Almunia sent a letter to Google asking them to change their search results and advertising rules or else be taken to court and possibly fined, according to a report by the Guardian.

In the letter, Almunia complained that Google’s search results favor its own products, that it copies content from rival sites to display in the search results, that advertisers can’t export details of their Google ad campaigns, and that rival advertisers are not allowed to display ads on properties that Google controls. The company has until July 2 to respond.

Google’s latest acquisition, Motorola Mobility, is also under investigation by the European commission for antitrust violations for taking Microsoft and Apple to court over patents including 3G and video decoding.

Microsoft also went to court in 1998 for bundling Internet explorer with the Windows operating system, creating an unfair advantage over other browsers. They settled on sharing their application programming interfaces (APIs) with third parties.

Google is setting up a similar situation with Motorola, as Android smartphones come standard with Google’s browser, email, and calendar services. Android may account for more than half of smartphone sales worldwide, but given the fanaticism of Apple’s iPhone users, they’ve got plenty of competition on that front.

In the Guardian article, technology editor rounded up a few expert opinions that get to the crux of the issue, notably this gem from Jeffrey Katz, chief executive of Nextag:

He says the claim, repeatedly made, by Schmidt and other Google executives such as chief executive Larry Page, that the competition is just a click away, is “such a disingenuous statement by billionaires.” He said: “Why would the average person do that? Ask them what other search engines exist and they’ll fall silent.”

Exactly. Here at Social Times we celebrate Internet companies of all shapes and sizes, but if this writer had to choose only one to work with, it would be Google. Google Search is the best thing to happen to writers since the cut and paste function in Microsoft Word. Here’s hoping that the latest offerings from Bing and Yahoo! can shake things up.

Image by krimar via Shutterstock.