The European Google antitrust investigation, which has been ongoing since November 2010, is continuing to grow. According to two sources familiar with the matter, five new groups have registered complaints.
The New Complaints
As with much of both antitrust cases (EU and U.S.), details on the new complaints are sparse. We don’t know who the companies are or what their exact complaints entail – only that they have, according to sources, made official complaints against Google that are now being reviewed by the European Commission.
The two insider sources, as cited by Reuters, claimed that, “The Commission has nine formal complaints now. The new complaints come from small companies,” and more specifically (according to the second source), three cases from national regulators and two from additional companies.
The European Commission has only confirmed four complaints thus far. Search Engine Watch contacted Google for a comment. A spokesman told us he wasn’t sure where Reuters got its information from and pointed us to two prior Google posts relating to antritrust probes (here and here).
Assuming these complaints are official, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean much for Google overall. The European Commission penalty cap remains at 10 percent of global turnover, and the sheer volume of complaints has no bearing on the decisions of the European Commission.
The European Antitrust Case Thus Far
For those who haven’t paid attention to Google’s legal worries, the short version is that Google is being investigated for antitrust violations in both Europe and the U.S.
The European investigation started in November of last year, when three companies (U.K. price comparison site Foundem, which is partly funded by Microsoft, French legal search engine ejustice.fr, and Microsoft’s Ciao by Bing) made a claim that Google was demoting their sites manually since they competed with Google’s services. Shortly thereafter, Microsoft also made an official antitrust complaint in Europe. Their anti-Google complaint was the first antitrust complaint made by Microsoft in Europe. (Historically, they’ve been on the receiving end.)
Both the European and U.S. investigations can take months or even years, and the penalties – should the European Commission and/or FTC rule against Google – would range into the billions of dollars.