Google Inc. (GOOG) was sued in France by a local competitor over claims the world’s largest search engine blocks rivals from reaping advertising revenue and gives preference to its own sites in query results.
1PlusV, a Paris-based web publisher, filed the lawsuit to the Paris Commercial Court today, seeking 295 million euros ($421 million) in damages and an order that Google post details of alleged “anti-competitive behavior” on its French home page for three months, 1PlusV said in an e-mailed statement.
“Google employed a number of anti-competitive practices and unethical behavior over a period of four years to cripple 1PlusV’s ability to generate business and advertising,” 1PlusV said in its statement. These practices include “suffocation of technological competitors” and “manipulation of ‘natural results.’”
1PlusV has made similar complaints against Google in two filings to European Union competition regulators last year and in February, saying the Mountain View, California-based company discriminates against so-called vertical search sites like 1PlusV. Other companies including Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) have joined with 1PlusV in asking for a review of Google’s practices.
“We have only just received the complaint so we can’t comment in detail yet,” Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, said in an e-mailed statement. “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 EU and U.S. federal and state antitrust regulators are investigating Google to see whether it discriminates against other services in its search results and stopped some websites from accepting rival ads. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission subpoenaed Google on June 23 to review its search and advertising practices.
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