If the FTC probe weren't bad enough, French search company 1plusV has filed suit against Google, seeking 295 million Euros (around $420 million in USD) in damages for the search giant's alleged anticompetitive search ranking practices. It's the largest antitrust lawsuit Google's faced in Europe thus far.
Now, I don't understand French, so I'm relying on the Reuters interpretation of the widely-available press release. But it seems that 1plusV's complaint - combined with similar complaints from Microsoft and their European shopping site Ciao, and British price comparison site Foundem - has actually triggered an investigation into Google's business practices by the European Commission, similar to the probe it's facing here in the US.
The crux of 1plusV's lawsuit is that Google stifled efforts to develop "vertical" search engines that serve specific markets - such as 1plusV's own legal advice and search site Ejustice.fr. 1plusV says that it tried to develop businesses around 30 more vertical search engines between 2007-2010, but Google blacklisted them.
Basically, the problem is that 1plusV feels that Google is unfairly taking advantage of its market leadership to keep rivals down. 1plusV says that's shown by the fact that in order to access vital customers with their advertising, they had to pay to use Google AdSense, which is, itself, tied to Google's search engine.
Combine that with Google's alleged practice of providing first search results primarily to its own services, and 1plusV thinks it has a case. Google hasn't responded except to say that its looking forward to answering the question of how these practices help users in court.
Needless to say, if 1plusV's suit succeeds in the Paris Commercial Court where it was filed, we could start seeing many, many more of this type. In a similar situation with the European Commission, Microsoft had to pay some steep fines and readjust its European business, as did Intel. And that's putting aside all the smaller companies that may want a piece of Google.
With the legal pressure building at home and abroad, Google may be in for some rough times ahead.