updated 07:40 am EDT, Tue April 5, 2011
Google could undergo wider antitrust probe
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is rumored to be considering a broad antitrust investigation into the way Google conducts its Internet search business. According to the Bloomberg sources, the investigation could be as wide-ranging as the Justice Department’s investigation into Microsoft’s anti-competitive practices of ten years ago. However, the FTC is alleged to be waiting to see if the Justice Department investigates Google’s planned acquisition of ITA Software’s travel information service.
The news follows FTC Commissioner Thomas Rosch’s comments last month that he felt an investigation of the leading search providers could be warranted. Although he did not mention any companies by name at the time, Google would be expected to figure in any such investigation.
When contacted by Bloomberg, a Google spokesperson stated “Since competition is one click away on the Internet, we work hard to put our users’ interests first and give them the best, most relevant answers to their queries.” The spokesperson on added “We built Google for users, not websites.”
One of the side effects of Google’s overwhelming success has seen it become increasingly the target of anti-competitive complaints. Recently, in an ironic twist, Microsoft whose Bing search service competes directly with Google, complained to European Union that Google has systematically excluded competition. The EU was itself already investigating Google following antitrust allegations raised by Microsoft informally, as well as by UK price site Foundem.co.uk.
The purchase of ITA by Google was first announced in July last year. The Justice Department has been closely reviewing the deal and has yet to approve its acquisition. It is thought that if the Justice Department approves the deal, it could come with very strict conditions, or it might reject it outright and could possibly even challenge it in court.
The FTC has previously acted against Google, stopping it placing ads on the rival Yahoo! site and had forced Google into a settlement over FTC claims that Google had used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy policies during its introduction of the social networking site Buzz.