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Google sued by shopping competitor for burying its listings in search

Jan 10, 2013 6:26 am

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FairSearch member Foundem scrapped its flight, hotel and car rental services last March in a scrape with Google over its Panda penalties. The FTC isn’t spanking Google, but Foundem seeks compensation for Google’s alleged “anti-competitive” behavior.

— Dennis Schaal

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Google Inc. was sued in London by a U.K. Internet company that previously filed a complaint with European Union regulators, sparking a two-year antitrust probe.

Foundem, a U.K. shopping comparison website, is seeking damages for revenue lost as a result of Google’s “anti-competitive conduct,” lawyers for Foundem said in the court documents filed in October and released this week.

Foundem’s complaint that Google stifles innovation for so-called vertical search services helped spur a 2010 EU antitrust investigation into whether the world’s largest search engine discriminates against rivals in its search results. The European Commission asked Google last month to submit proposals that could lead to a settlement of the probe.

Foundem said in the lawsuit that it had been unfairly penalized by Google because it offers a competing shopping comparison search service. It lost web traffic as a result of being pushed down in Google’s search rankings.

Tom Price, a London-based spokesman for Google, declined to comment on the suit. U.S. regulators this month ended an investigation into Google’s search services, citing insufficient evidence that the company’s actions harmed consumers.

Google punished Foundem’s site for not having original content. “Since a lack of original content is an inherent characteristic of all search services, including Google’s own, that reason cannot justify” the Mountain View, California- based company’s actions, Foundem said in the U.K. lawsuit.

Foundem is a member of ICOMP, a Brussels-based industry coalition that includes Microsoft Corp., owner of the Bing search engine.

[Skift: Foundem is also a member of the U.S.-based FairSearch coalition that sought to block Google's acquisition of ITA Software, and has been fighting Google's search practices.]

Foundem, based in Bracknell, England, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail on the lawsuit. Stephen Kinsella, a lawyer representing the site’s founders, declined to comment.

The case is Infederation v. Google, High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, No. HC12A02489.

–Editors: Peter Chapman, Christopher Scinta

 

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeremy Hodges in London at jhodges17@bloomberg.net; Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net

 

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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