The European Commission has launched an investigation against Google after receiving complaints of unfair trade practices from three European Internet companies – Ciao! from Bing, UK price comparison site Foundem, and French legal search engine The firms believe they are not being ranked fairly in Google's search results. Foundem claims to have been snubbed by "search penalties" that are often deployed against spam or sites caught attempting to cheat Google's algorithms.

In a blog post yesterday, Google denied wrongdoing and provided a few background details about the complaints. The search giant said that while each company raises slightly different issues, they ultimately question whether Google is unfairly choking off competition. Google says it isn't. "We always try to listen carefully if someone has a real concern and we work hard to put our users' interests first and compete fair and square in the market."

Google also noted that one of the companies – Ciao! from Bing – is owned by Microsoft, and Foundem is a member of ICOMP, an organization that receives funding from Redmond. Microsoft's involvement is ironic, considering the number of European antitrust investigations aimed at the company over the years. The current probe against Google is only preliminary, and nothing may come of it – but the EC has a knack for slapping technology companies with massive fines.