Expedia Inc. (EXPE) filed an antitrust complaint against Google Inc. (GOOG) with European Union regulators, adding to earlier grievances brought against the world’s largest search-engine operator by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)
The complaint by the online travel company “details specific business and search practices by Google that constitute a violation of European Union competition and consumer protection laws,” Expedia said in a statement, which didn’t provide specifics of the allegations.
Google, based in Mountain View, California, is under growing pressure from global antitrust agencies probing whether the company is thwarting competition in the market for Web searches. While Microsoft and partner Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) have about a quarter of the U.S. Web-search market, Google has almost 95 percent of the traffic in Europe, Microsoft said in a blog post last year, citing data from regulators.
“We haven’t yet seen the complaint, but we’ve been working to explain how our business works, cooperating with the European Commission since this investigation began,” Al Verney, a Google spokesman based in Brussels, said in an e-mail statement. “We’re happy to discuss any concerns the Commission might have.”
Google introduced a flight-search service last year that “excludes any link to online travel agencies,” which hampers customers’ comparison shopping, an outside counsel for Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia told a U.S. Senate subcommittee in September. Google’s actions strayed from a commitment it made to U.S. regulators to gain approval to buy ITA Software Inc., he said.
“Strong action is needed by the European Commission to restore a fair and competitive marketplace in online search that respects consumers’ rights,” Expedia said in the statement.
The European Commission received the complaint today, spokesman Antoine Colombani said in a telephone interview.
Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, may decide next month on whether to proceed with a case against Google, he told CNBC in an interview today. The EU is investigating claims Google discriminated against other services in its search results and stopped some websites from accepting rival ads. Microsoft and shopping-comparison site Foundem are among companies that asked for a review of Google’s actions.
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