Search battle against Google moves to Brazil

October 11, 2013 9:11 pm

Search battle against Google moves to Brazil
By Joe Leahy in São Paulo

Microsoft has joined a Brazilian group to file a complaint against Google with Brazil’s antitrust authority, opening a new front in its battle against its search engine rival’s global dominance online.

The opening of the case in one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing internet markets is a blow for Google just as it is close to settling a separate but similar antitrust case brought by Microsoft in the Europe Union.

Brazil’s antitrust regulator, Cade, said the alleged violations by Google, “if proven, may hinder the entry and development of competitors in the Brazilian online search market, as well as increase Google’s already elevated market power”.

Brazil is proving to be a gold mine for large US internet companies. Brazilians are the second most numerous users of Facebook after their counterparts in the US and are among the most avid users of Twitter. Google has “99 per cent” of the search market, Cade said.

But US internet companies’ standing in Latin America’s biggest country has taken a battering in recent weeks amid allegations Washington’s spy agencies have been hacking into Brazilians’ emails and communications, including those of President Dilma Rousseff and large companies, such as state oil group Petrobras.

“We will of course work with Brazilian regulators to address any questions or concerns they may have,” Google said in an emailed statement.

It added: “Governments and courts around the world – including in Brazil – have already examined competition issues thoroughly and found no violation of law.”

Cade said the complaints against Google were brought by Microsoft’s search engine Bing and E-Commerce Media Group Informação e Tecnologia, owner of shopping websites Buscapé and Bondfaro.

Microsoft is alleging Google is imposing restrictions on advertisers that prevent them from running the same campaign on multiple search engines, known as “multi-homing”, Cade said.

The antitrust agency said multi-homing makes it easier and more affordable to run a campaign across the web but Google’s does not allow advertisers to share information from its platform with other search engines.

“By imposing restrictions to the sharing of information in advertising platforms, Google would end up discouraging advertisers from also launching campaigns in competing search engines, thus harming the development of these competitors, which already hold little market share,” Cade said.

E-Commerce, for its part, alleges that Google is favouring its own services, such as Google Shopping, in its “organic” – or unsponsored – searches and in its sponsored searches over competitors such as Buscapé and Bondfaro.

Cade said it would also investigate whether Google was granting less room to the organic search than the sponsored search and deliberately confusing users as to which items were organic and which were sponsored.

E-Commerce has also alleged anti-competitive practices in the way Google uses photos with advertisements for its own products but restricts their use by competitors, thus making its own products more attractive.

The Brazilian company accuses Google of “scraping” or taking customer reviews from its websites and using them on the US companies’ shopping service.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013.


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