Posted January 18, 2010 2:24 pm by with 5 comments

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So it only takes one high-ranking government official calling Google a monopoly to have German companies jump on an anti-trust bandwagon, eh? Who’dathunkit?

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?

  • You can never tell what Google has to worry about since we are dealing with government thinking (the ultimate oxymoron no matter where you are on the planet). I still don’t see the monopoly piece. Like you said I think it’s because Google is so big. They are not shutting anyone out of the competitive landscape like Microsoft did with the desktop. They are just competing. Anyway, I think that someone, somewhere will find a way to make some of these accusations stick which will ultimately end up hurting more people than it helps. All in the name of being “fair”. It’s pathetic but it’s the world we live in. If you are a success you are a target.\ and there is no bigger success than Google.
    .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..A Nagging Local Feeling =-.

  • It’s really interesting to see where Americans and Europeans draw the line on this type of thing. Europe seems to be very concerned with newspapers, the recording industry.. offline business models. These are the types of things that Americans seem to acknowledge as nostalgic more than critical to our heritage. As a result, I think stories like this seem to stand out a little as odd. Or maybe it’s just a sign of things to come for Google all over the globe.
    .-= Josh Braaten´s last blog ..Testing Usability: Question Before You Code =-.

  • Tommy Mayer

    It’s important that Google gets split asap. The company is trouble. Let’s see how China kicks their ass first and then have the EU kick some more. Fortunately more and more people are using Bing these days and Facebook is going into the offensive as well. Let’s kick some open source Google ASSSSS.

    I’m soo sick of their ‘Everything has to be FREE’ policy and then always cashing in with their adverts while an entire industry goes bust. Their innovation policy really is just: Copy and Paste and publish it under the new Google name. Look at Gmail, Maps and any other thing they copied and then offered for free. They are worse than the Chinese.

    Larry Page and Sergej Brin are both communists.

  • ALF

    Nothing like the truth they hide. Anyone do a canadian comparison of facts google obfuscates from American germans?

  • ALF

    What ever happened to ALF Manufacturing?