TripAdvisor Files Antitrust Complaint Against Google With EU

TripAdvisor Inc. filed an antitrust complaint against Google Inc. with European Union regulators, adding a second set of allegations from an online travel company against the world’s largest search-engine operator.

TripAdvisor’s complaint addresses “anti-competitive and unfair practices by Google that harm the marketplace and consumer welfare,” the Newton, Massachusetts-based company said today in a statement, which didn’t give details of the claims. Streetmap, a British mapping service, also filed a complaint with regulators, the European Commission said.

Expedia Inc. last week filed a complaint with the commission, which is investigating claims that Google discriminated against other services in its search results and stopped some websites from accepting rival ads. Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, has said he may decide this month whether to proceed with a case against Google.

“We hope that the commission takes prompt corrective action to ensure a healthy and competitive online environment that will foster innovation across the Internet,” TripAdvisor said in the statement.

Google hasn’t seen the complaint and “will continue to discuss any concerns with the commission, knowing that there’s always room for improvement,” said Al Verney, a spokesman for the company in Brussels.

The commission has received TripAdvisor’s complaint, Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the regulator in Brussels, said in an e-mail.

Thwarting Competition

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 Corp. and partner Yahoo! Inc. 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.

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., it said.

Misleading Consumers

Lastminute.com Ltd. “shares Expedia’s concerns surrounding Google’s practices,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Tactics that may mislead consumers and exclude rivals call for “a full investigation into Google’s practices on the travel verticals, such as flight and hotel search,” said Matthew Crummack, Lastminute.com’s president and chief executive officer in the statement.

“Value per transaction” of travel websites “is quite significant, which makes it interesting for competitors to move into this space,” said Christoph Klenner, secretary general of the European Technology and Travel Services Association, a Brussels-based group whose members include Expedia. “We certainly hope the commission adds a chapter on travel” to its ongoing investigation.

(Updates with Streetmap complaint in second paragraph, Lastminute.com and industry group comment in ninth paragraph.)
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