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Google Faces German Publishers’ Complaints in EU Probe

Google Inc. faces European Union antitrust complaints from publishers who say the search engine discriminates against their sites, a lawyer for the German publishers said.

Eckhard Bremer, who represents two publishing groups, said EU regulators took over part of a complaint initially filed with the German antitrust agency in January. The EU will investigate fair search issues, he said in a telephone interview today, and German officials will continue to probe fair pay for the use of content.

The EU was already investigating whether Google discriminated against competing services in its search results and for stopping some websites from accepting rival ads. The complaints in that case was filed by a German-based Microsoft Corp. Internet unit and other rivals.

Google will “work cooperatively with the commission and national regulators explaining many aspects of our business,” Al Verney, a spokesman for Google, said in an e-mailed statement.

Jonathan Todd, a spokesman for the European Commission in Brussels said the additional complaints won’t necessarily change the nature of the investigation.

German regulators have “transferred to the commission those aspects of its investigations which are” similar to those now being looked at by the EU, he said. The EU and national regulators don’t usually investigate the same issues in parallel, he said.

The EU took on the German case after publishers from several EU countries complained to their national regulators, Bremer said. Euro-Cities AG, a map service provider, also complained to German regulators in January. The EU decision was first reported in the New York Times.

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