Google faces new $423 million antitrust suit

@CNNMoneyTech June 28, 2011: 12:31 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In the latest of a recent slew of antitrust complaints filed against Google, French search company 1plusV said Tuesday it would seek $423 million in damages from the American search giant.

1plusV, which makes a host of niche search engines for French speakers, said the sum it is seeking equals the amount of business it lost because of Google's alleged anticompetitive business practices. This would be the largest such claim against Google in Europe.

The French company claims Google blacklisted 30 of its search engines from its search results from 2007 to 2010. Though 1plusV said some have recently been "white-listed," the company believes it suffered irreparable damage.

1plusV also claims that Google unfairly promotes its own services ahead of its competitors. Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) has long claimed that its search results are algorithmic and essentially have no human interference.

Company founder Bruno Guillard told CNN that the trouble began in September 2007. The company had been receiving more than 1 million visitors per day to its E-Justice site, but had lost 80% of those visits by the end of the month.

Guillard stressed how difficult it is for a small company to take on a global giant.

"We are only able to do this because it is not our principal business," he said. "Otherwise we would have suffered extinction long ago."

This is the third lawsuit 1plusV has filed against Google. The first came in February 2010, when it and three other companies including Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission. The Commission is now conducting a broad investigation into Google's business practices. The second complaint was filed to the European Commission in February 2011.

1plusV would not be entitled to any monetary compensation from either of those two filings, but it would be able to collect damages from its third filing. The company said it serves as a "logical follow-up of our complaints."

"In addition to seeking a positive outcome in the French Commercial Court, 1plusV continues to expect the European Commission to order Google to rapidly put an end to anti-competitive practices," said Guillard, in a statement.

Google dominates search in Europe, controlling about 90% of the market. Google controls about two-thirds of the market in the United States, according to comScore, with Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) and Microsoft a distant second and third

As a result, the company has faced increased regulatory scrutiny at home as well.

This year alone, the Federal Trade Commission began investigating the company for evidence of antitrust practices, and a federal judge rejected Google's settlement to create a universal online book library.

The Department of Justice also heavily scrutinized the company's recent purchase of flight data software company ITA, and Google set aside $500 million for a potential settlement with the DOJ regarding the company's advertising practices.

The DOJ is currently studying Google's proposed $400 million purchase of digital advertising toolmaker Admeld.

The Senate's antitrust subcommittee wants to hold a hearing within the next few weeks on "competition issues pertaining to Internet search" -- and it has threatened CEO Larry Page and Chariman Eric Schmidt with subpoenas if they decline to testify.

-- CNN's Paris Bureau contributed reporting to this story To top of page

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