Historically, when the EU and Microsoft
have dealt with each other, the latter has been under investigation by the former amid allegations of anti-competitive practices, bad faith negotiation, and interference with an investigation. It's therefore strange to read that Microsoft, of all companies, has filed a complaint against Google with the EU. A recent blog post by Brad Smith, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, explains the company's reasoning.
we’re concerned by a broadening pattern of conduct aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive alternative... We’ve therefore decided to join a large and growing number of companies registering their concerns about the European search market. By the European Commission’s own reckoning, Google has about 95 percent of the search market in Europe. This contrasts with the United States, where Microsoft serves about a quarter of Americans’ search needs either directly through Bing or through our partnership with Yahoo!.
Smith then hints at Google's dark motives, describing the company's Yahoo offer as an attempt to impede fair competition, while Google Books is an attempt to "monopolize book content." Despite the DOJ's best efforts "this has not stopped the spread by Google
of new and disconcerting practices in the United States."
Bing's market share in selected nations. Data from Q4 2010
Google, Microsoft alleges, plays both ends against the middle. It decries any attempt to apply a walled garden standard to the Internet while simultaneously "walling off access to content and data that competitors need to provide search results to consumers and to attract advertisers."
Microsoft claims that Google has made it steadily more difficult for third-party search engines to index YouTube clips, has purposefully prevented WP7 smartphones from implementing a competitive YouTube app, is attempting to steal so-called 'orphan' books, restricts advertisers' ability to access their own data, and competitively blocks leading EU websites from displaying embedded search boxes from other search engines. This last point has "blocked Microsoft from distributing its Windows Live services, such as email and online document storage, through European telecommunications companies because these services are monetized through Bing search boxes."
Microsoft's filing could cause further waves for Google. The search giant is still under investigation after three alternative browser developers sued it late last year. Google's response is short and to the point: "We're not surprised that Microsoft has done this, since one of their subsidiaries was one of the original complainants," said Google spokesperson Al Verney. For our part, we continue to discuss the case with the European Commission and we're happy to explain to anyone how our business works."
As for why MS filed in the EU, there's a difference in how copyright law is often interpreted across the pond. In the EU, the focus is on anticompetitive behavior. In the US, companies must typically show that consumers were harmed. It's rather difficult to demonstrate how Google has harmed consumers. The fact that its market share is smaller here also makes it harder for Redmond to prove that Google has abused its dominant position.
Lest any of you think the company is without a sense of humor, Brad Smith notes notes the irony of the situation. saying: "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."