Google’s latest antitrust complaint results in Europe probe

Three European-based Web sites have filed formal complaints to the European Commission, alleging antitrust concerns. The claims include assertions that Google systematically lowers search index values of companies with competing interests to Google.

UK-based price comparison site Foundem, and French legal search outlet say that Google’s algorithm targets them specifically to demote them in search results. The third complaint comes fom Ciao, a shopping site that used to be owned by Google but is now under the Microsoft umbrella. Ciao has an unspecified complaint about Google’s terms and conditions.

The EC has sent a letter to the online search giant asking for an explanation.

In a blog post, Google’s Senior Competition Counsel Julia Holtz, wrote, “Our algorithms aim to rank first what people are most likely to find useful and we have nothing against vertical search sites — indeed many vertical search engines like, Opodo and Expedia typically rank high in Google’s results.”

With a consistent search engine market share of around 90%, Google is no stranger to massive litigation and investigation. Last year, the company paid a $125 million settlement in the US and worked out another deal with Europe over a breach of contract with its online book service. The FTC also investigated Google in 2009 over potential antitrust concerns.

It explains why Google needs to have its own legal counsel specifically for “competition” issues. On that note, Holtz added, “We always try to listen carefully if someone has a real concern and we work hard to put our users’ interests first and to compete fair and square in the market. We believe our business practices reflect those commitments.”