French vertical search specialist 1plusV has announced it is filing papers before the Commercial Court of Paris, seeking €295 million in damages against Google and Google France.
The filing follows a complaint filed in February by eJustice.fr, a 1plusV-developed site designed to specifically search for legal documentation, which itself was a follow-up to an anti-trust probe launched by the EU in November.
In its original complaint, eJustice.fr claimed that between 2006 and 2010 Google banned vertical search operators from using its AdSense platform, something 1plusV claimed at the time represented, "the only truly effective way of obtaining targeted advertising on a search engine."
Clearly unwilling to wait for the EU to make its decision, 1plusV has filed its own request for damages before the Commercial Court in the hopes of a bumper €295 million payout from the advertising giant.
"This action for damages brought today is a logical extension of our previous complaints to the Competition DG of the European Commission, " 1plusV founder Bruno Guillard explained in a statement to press. "Our initiative will not only benefit our company, but all the players in this growing sector of vertical search engines. The problems we face are of importance for electronic commerce and the economy in general and even indirectly to the preservation of democratic values in the Internet age."
At the heart of 1plusV's complaint is the alleged delisting of 30 vertical search engines created by the company between 2007 and 2010 from Google's services. While the company admits that not all of the sites would have gone on to make money had the delisting not occurred, it claims that some had "a significant economic potential."
As with the company's earlier complaints, it's claiming that "anti-competitive and unfair practices" committed by Google have resulted in the "strangling of competing technologies by linking access to advertising revenue to the exclusive use of search technology from Google" along with "manipulation of natural results by favouring its own services."
"It's not for 1plusV to decide what needs to be done, but it seems clear that ex ante regulation of the search engines will be needed before long," Guillard said. "We can address the question of the neutrality of research systems in the broader debate on Net neutrality, but I think that the problem of search engines is so complex and Google is so dominant that a specific regulation will soon become inevitable."
Speaking to thinq_, a Google spokesperson said: "We have only just received the complaint so we can't comment in detail yet. We always try to do what's best for our users. It's the key principle that drives our company and we look forward to explaining this."
NOTE: Guillard's comments were originally made in French, and have been translated for reproduction here. The original is included in 1plusV's press release, available as a downloadable PDF.