As predicted in the previous CMT Updater, 2010 looks like being a difficult year for Google. Following the opening of investigations by a number of antitrust authorities in the EU, the European Commission has now confirmed that it is also examining complaints that Google has abused a dominant position in the online search engine and online advertising markets. Two of the complainants - Foundem, a British price comparison site, and ejustice.fr, a French legal search engine - have apparently both complained that Google has deliberately relegated their websites - which might be seen as competing with services offered by Google - to an unfairly low ranking in Google’s search results. The third complainant - Ciao!, a German online shopping portal owned by Microsoft - allegedly complained about the way Google sells adverts. Although no formal investigation has been opened by the Commission yet, it has confirmed that it has asked Google to comment on the complaints.
In contrast to Google's position, things are looking a lot brighter for Microsoft. It is acting as complainant rather than defendant in the Google investigation, it has obtained a non-conditional clearance from the European Commission for its tie-up with Yahoo, and has also received approval from the European Commission for the way it has implemented the commitments made in December 2009 to allay concerns that the company was abusing its dominant position in the market for client PC operating systems through the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows. Windows will now offer consumers a choice of web browsers and Microsoft has also committed not to retaliate against PC manufacturers who pre-install a non-Microsoft web browser on the PCs they ship and make it the default web browser. Microsoft will now report regularly to the European Commission on the implementation of these commitments, which are likely to be reviewed in two years’ time.