Google faces new EU antitrust allegations

Google has been hit by a new EU antitrust claim after the search giant was accused of anticompetitive behaviour by a French company that creates specialised search engines.

In a statement, 1plusV, a company that runs specialised 'vertical search engines', has accused Google of a deliberate attempt to prevent rivals from competing.

1plusV is the parent company of eJustice.fr, a legal search engine that triggered an ongoing antitrust probe into Google's activities last November, after it complained that the search giant unfairly removed its matches from Google search listings.

The company claims that between 2006 and 2010, Google banned vertical search operators from using its online advertising service AdSense - a system 1plusV describes as "the only truly effective way of obtaining targeted advertising on a search engine".

In addition, the company alleges that in retaliation for eJustice's original complaint, Google delisted other sites published by 1plusV.

Google claims to rank sites based on how valuable they are for users - and often advises companies on how they can improve their sites.

But 1plusV claims that the removal of the sites could not have been based on this policy - citing as evidence the fact that the sites were reinstated in December, shortly after the EC antitrust probe began, even though they hadn't been modified.

"The relisting is in complete contradiction with the Google argument that eJustice.fr was delisted because it provided no value to the Internet user," 1plusV said in the statement.

Google said it would continue to cooperate fully with the European Commission antitrust probe.

"While we have always tried to do the right thing for our users and advertisers, we recognise that there's always room for improvement," the company said in a statement.

A spokesman for the European Commission, Amadeu Altafaj Tardio, said regulators "will give Google the opportunity to comment on the allegations raised before deciding on what, if any, further steps to take."

If found guilty of abusing its dominant market position, Google faces a fine of up to 10 per cent of its annual revenues, which last year exceeded $29 billion.