French search engine company 1PlusV is suing Google for 295 million euros in lost profits. It accuses Google of using its market dominance to block the development of alternative services.
The French company is one of several, including Microsoft, that say Google abused its dominant position by demoting rival sites in search results and giving preference to its own services.
The allegation has triggered an investigation by the European Commission.
The US Federal Trade Commission last week also opened a formal probe into Google’s market practices, raising the spectre of a protracted regulatory battle on both sides of the Atlantic for Google — similar to Microsoft’s earlier fights with the authorities.
1PlusV, which runs the Ejustice.fr legal website and search engine, says that Google prevented it from developing specialised “vertical” search engines and crippled its ability to generate business and advertising and the claim is for lost and future profits.
“Between 2007 and 2010, no less than 30 vertical search engines created by 1PlusV were black-listed, some of which showed significant business potential,” it said.
1PlusV accused Google of suffocating rivals through its policy of tying its advertising service Adsense to its own search engine.
Google’s Adsense allows advertisers to buy keywords which when typed in as a search query produce a commercial link alongside the search results. Thus rival search engines wanting to access vital clients and revenue were forced to adopt Google technology.
Google said it had been notified of the claim. “We have only just received the complaint, so we can’t comment in detail yet,” Google spokesman Al Verney said. “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.”
The complainants against Google include British price comparison site Foundem and Microsoft, through its ownership of German price comparison site Ciao.