We were interested to read that Microsoft has dropped its financial support for FairSearch, the lobbying group committed to the defence of online competition and promotion of fair searches across the Internet.
FairSearch has been very active in the European antitrust case against Google which filed formally in April 2015, Google’s 130-page response was received by the EU last November. This case is set to be extremely lengthy, with final settlement not expected for at least five years. The EU is also investigating Android for similar reasons, based on complaints about unfair bundling of Google apps and other services on Android devices.
The FairSearch organisation was launched with a fanfare in 2010 and Microsoft has been very active in lobbying against Google in a number of global cases, through its membership of FairSearch and via independent activities. However, the Microsoft brand withdrew its support for FairSearch in December 2015, declining to make any official comment on reasons for pulling funding from the campaigning group. It’s not difficult to understand reasons for Microsoft’s campaign against Google, its own search engine Bing has always been the underdog in search engine popularity stakes. Some commentators feel the Microsoft withdrawal could be strategic acceptance that all aims against the Google giant have now been accomplished. Alternatively, this action could be reflective of a different approach under new CEO, Satya Nadella.
Microsoft does still have an active formal complaint against Google in this antitrust case, so it hasn’t dropped all activity against the group. Google will still have memories of the “Scroogled” ad campaign against it launched in 2012 by Microsoft, so it’s unlikely the two rivals will be burying any hatchet in the near future. It does seem Microsoft are focusing more on issues of privacy and data security lately, however. The most bitter attacks on Google in the European antitrust case have been from German media and telecom groups.
At the moment the membership of FairSearch consists of Allegro, Admarketplace.com, Expedia, Buscape, Nokia, Foundem, Oracle, Twenga and Trip Advisor. At some points FairSearch has even been referred to as a “front group” for Microsoft, however, this is no longer the case. FairSearch spokesman Thomas Vinje said: “While we appreciate Microsoft’s contribution while a member, the work of our coalition continues unabated”. It will be interesting to learn the EU decision on the antitrust case against Google which is expected in about a year, although an appeal launched via Luxembourg is likely to result in a longwinded case. The recent tax windfall paid to HMRC by Google for backdated taxes on profits could be an indication the search engine giant is prepared to soften its attitude somewhat.