Google Inc. is set to announce later Tuesday that European antitrust authorities have opened a preliminary probe into complaints made against it by three European Internet companies, according to people familiar with the matter.Recall that European Antitrust law exists to protect European competitors, not to protect competition. And of course that antitrust in an internet world is of dubious benefit (source).
The inquiry into allegations of anticompetitive behavior is at an early, fact-finding stage and may not result in any action. But it appeared to be the first time that European antitrust authorities have examined Google's conduct outside of a merger review.
It also comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of Google in Europe, where the company has an even more dominant position in search advertising than it does in the U.S.
The inquiry will look into allegations made by Ciao.de, a German subsidiary of Microsoft Corp. It will also consider complaints by Foundem.co.uk, a U.K. price comparison site, and EJustice.fr, a French site specializing in legal search inquiries.
Google had previously disclosed German's Federal Cartel Office had been looking into the complaint by Ciao, the details of which have not been made public. That complaint now appears to have been escalated to the European Commission's antitrust authority, the Directorate General for Competition.
Of course, live by the sword....