Microsoft files EU complaint over Google search

Microsoft has formally complained to European anti-monopoly regulators over Google’s claimed blocking of Microsoft from various aspects of search functions.

Explaining the compliant in a blog posting, Microsoft's General Counsel Brad Smith outlines six specific charges against the Internet search leader.

He says that, since Google acquired YouTube, "it has put in place a growing number of technical measures to restrict competing search engines from properly accessing it for their search results".

This means that Microsoft's own search engine Bing, as well as other search engines, "cannot stand with Google on an equal footing in returning search results with links to YouTube videos and that, of course, drives more users away from competitors and to Google."

He then accuses Google of blocking Microsoft’s new Windows Phones from operating properly with YouTube. "Google has enabled its own Android phones to access YouTube so that users can search for video categories, find favourites, see ratings, and so forth in the rich user interfaces offered by those phones. It’s done the same thing for the iPhones offered by Apple, which doesn’t offer a competing search service.

"Unfortunately, Google has refused to allow Microsoft’s new Windows Phones to access this YouTube metadata in the same way that Android phones and iPhones do", Smith writes. "As a result, Microsoft’s YouTube 'app' on Windows Phones is basically just a browser displaying YouTube’s mobile Web site, without the rich functionality offered on competing phones. Microsoft is ready to release a high quality YouTube app for Windows Phone. We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide."

A third complaint is that Google is seeking to block access to content owned by book publishers, which reverences a decision taken in federal court in New York last week, which said "Google’s ability to deny competitors the ability to search orphan books would further entrench Google’s market power in the online search market.” Smith says that, while the US is recognising the danger of Google cornering book search, Europe needs to do the same.

Smith further accuses Google of restricting its own advertisers’ access to their own data. "This data belongs to the advertisers: it reflects their decisions about their own business. But Google contractually prohibits advertisers from using their data in an interoperable way with other search advertising platforms, such as Microsoft’s adCenter," Smith writes.

"Advertising revenue is the economic propellant fuelling the billions of dollars needed for ongoing search investments. By reducing competitors’ ability to attract advertising revenue, this restriction strikes at the heart of a competitive market," he complains

Smith also says Google is undermining competition by contractually blocking Web sites in Europe from distributing 'search boxes' that aren't Google's. "It is obviously difficult for competing search engines to gain users when nearly every search box is powered by Google," he writes. "Google’s exclusivity terms have even blocked Microsoft from distributing its Windows Live services, such as email and online document storage, through European telecommunications companies because these services are monetised through Bing search boxes."

He says Microsoft "has provided the Commission with a considerable body of expert analysis concerning how search engine algorithms work and the competitive significance of promoting or demoting various advertisements."

In response to our request for a response, Google offered teh following statement: "We're not surprised that Microsoft has done this, since one of their subsidiaries was one of the original complainants. 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."

Article updated 10:36, March 31st. Adds Google statement.