Last week, Senator Mike Lee called for the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee to conduct a hearing, with Google identified as the target.
In a statement, Lee said, "Google's position as the preeminent search engine may be abused so as to disadvantage competing vertical search sites to the detriment of advertisers and internet users."
"Google's powerful position as an Internet gatekeeper reduces the company's incentive to compete with other search engines by providing enhanced privacy protection for consumers," he also said.
Today, we received a statement from the FairSearch Coalition, an organization formed solely to push for the blocking of Google's proposed acquisition of ITA Software. For more background on that, see our past coverage here.
The statement says:
FairSearch.org is working to promote competition, transparency and innovation in online search. We believe that Internet users should pick winners and losers – not search engines. Our members have been passionate advocates for competition in the travel search vertical, a dynamic space that has benefited consumers by, among other things, putting pressure on airlines to keep prices low.
Senate Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Ranking Member Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have demonstrated great vision and leadership in the past week by calling for Congressional scrutiny of Google's dominance of online search and allegations that it has abused that dominance to advantage its own services and harm competition.
Congress is right to investigate these issues and examine the threats that Google's unchecked dominance poses to the Internet ecosystem. As Sen. Lee stated in his letter to Chairman Kohl, "Enforcement of the antitrust laws is especially important for sectors in which the United States has been a leader, such as the e-commerce and online advertising industries." The proper enforcement of antitrust laws is a critical linchpin in the Internet’s continued role as a driving force behind the U.S. economy.
Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA Software, as Sen. Lee noted, "could potentially provide Google with the ability to control the travel search vertical market." We believe the American consumer deserves a better deal than that. FairSearch is encouraged that Senators Kohl, Lee and Blumenthal agree that Google's attempts to expand its dominance through acquisitions bear close examination.
Examination is not an indictment, and of course there are two sides to every story. More on Google's argument here.
It's worth noting that Google's main competitor, Microsoft (no stranger itself to antitrust matters), is part of the FairSearch coalition.
Last month, Bing introduced its own flight price suggestions right from the search box. While Google is often accused of favoring its own content over competitors, it's interesting that Bing is going so far as to suggest its own content before users even get to the search results themselves.
Earlier this month, Bing announced a partnership with travel site KAYAK.