Paris-based Internet company 1PlusV is suing Google for €295 million euros, or approximately $421 million (U.S.), for what 1PlusV claims are anti-competitive practices. This is the largest case of its kind on a global scale and the largest single case ever filed against Google in Europe.
The Details of the Claim
There's an atmosphere of antitrust when it comes to Google. The European Commission is currently investigating Google for potentially anti-competitive practices, and earlier this month the U.S. FTC investigation of Google for similar practices officially began. It's unsurprising that 1PlusV would choose this time to seek civil damages against the American search giant.
This isn't the first time 1PlusV has brought up concerns, however. In fact, 1PlusV was one of the loudest complaining voices last year that led to the European Commission investigation. 1PlusV claims that Google prevented its company from benefiting from Google advertisement services and even black-listed a number of sites owned by 1PlusV.
The Google ad restrictions were specifically for a "hybrid search engine," according to The New York Times. That hybrid engine was called VSearch, and Google refused to let 1PlusV use the Google advertisement services unless they were using the Google search technology.
According to 1PlusV, the need to use Google technology, "Strongly hinders the capacity of sites using this technology to get listed on Google Web, thereby hindering these sites’ ability to draw traffic and by the same token revenues."
The other claim is far more substantial. According to 1PlusV founder Brunno Guillard, Google completely prevented users from finding the site properties for over four years. While they have since been reinstated, there has been "irreparable damage."
How Nice Must Google Play?
One of the big questions in the antitrust investigations at large, and certainly in this case, is what should really be expected of Google. With 90 percent of the market in several European countries, Google's role of organizing the world's information has become a critical part of how web-based companies function.
But should Google have to allow users to access advertising services unilaterally, even if they're offering a competing service?
It will likely be difficult for 1PlusV to support its claims against Google if they rely on not be allowed access to advertising services – especially since those advertising services have fairly clear terms of service written out.
The blacklisting of the sites is the more substantial issue, but documentation will have to be provided and Google may yet have the opportunity to demonstrate other reasons why the rank of the site dropped or, if it was literally blacklisted, the cause of being removed from the search engine entirely.