Yep, after Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said, “All in all, what’s taking shape there to a large extent is a giant monopoly, similar to Microsoft,” the Federation of Newspaper Publishers, online mapping company Euro-Cities and even Microsoft-owned Ciao have filed complaints against Google with the German government.
The complaints have been lodged with the Bundeskartellamt, the Federal Cartel Office. The office is independent, but falls under the purview of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology—not Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger’s ministry.
The three complaints allege that various Google practices and products make it impossible for others to compete in that industry. The Federation of Newspaper Publishers resurrects everyone’s favorite anti-Google News argument against using “snippets” in their results. (Remember, however, that three years ago, Belgian courts actually upheld this argument.)
Online mapping competitor Euro-Cities argues that Google’s free embeddable maps prohibit competition against Euro-Cities’ paid services. And Ciao, who was bought in 2005 and then their parent company was acquired by Microsoft in 2008, is trying to get out of a display-advertising contract with Google AdSense, stating that the contract is overly restrictive.
As both paidContent and Search Engine Land point out, these complaints would probably bear no merit if they were filed against smaller, less powerful competitors. However, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
While we can’t deny that Google has a lot of services and marketshare, it does seem that these complaints look like evidence that the free market at work. A company that can afford to offer a free service is putting a paid one out of business? Maybe it’s time to rethink your business model, not sue. (And newspapers? Hello, robots.txt.)
What do you think? Does Google have anything to worry about with these suits?