THe U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights announced today that it will hold a hearing, "The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?" on September 21 at 2:00 PM.
Last month, we reported that Google had been subpoenaed by the committee, seeking testimony from either Google CEO Larry Page or former CEO and current Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, but according to a report from Bloomberg, which quoted emails from the subcommittee and Google, Google only wanted to send its Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, who also serves as the company's SVP of corporate development. Drummond, Google said was "the executive who can best answer their questions."
Schmidt did eventually agree to testify at the hearing, as Politico reported earlier this month. A Google spokesperson was quoted as saying, "Sens. Kohl and Lee expressed a strong desire to have our executive chairman appear in front of the subcommittee, and we're happy to accommodate them. We appreciate their willingness to work with us to make it happen this fall."
That would be Herb Kohl and Mike Lee. Kohl is the chairman who will preside over the hearing. “We look forward to Eric Schmidt's participation at our Antitrust Subcommittee hearing in September,” Kohl had said. “This will allow us to have a truly informational and thorough public hearing.”
Of course FairSearch, the organization put together originally to see Google's ITA Software acquisition blocked (unsuccessfully) as anticompetitive, and who has been committed to fueling the fire of anti-competition claims against Google ever since, had something to say about the announcement. On the organization's blog, it says:
FairSearch.org applauds the subcommittee’s Chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Ranking Member Mike Lee (R-UT) for their vision and leadership in 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 innovation, consumers and competition.
Congress is right to investigate these issues and to examine the threats that Google’s unchecked dominance poses to the Internet ecosystem. As Sen. Lee stated in a letter to Chairman Kohl this May, “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.”
FairSearch.org believes 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, and ensuring that the Internet remains a force that continues to deliver benefits to consumers and society. After all, it is competition that drives innovation and consumer benefits online.
FairSearch also put out a report this week accusing Google of "grossly exaggerating" its impact as a company on the U.S. economy.
Meanwhile, Google is still trying to win Department of Justice approval of its proposed acquisition of ad optimization platform AdMeld, and is in the midst of a broader antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.
In a post to its own Public Policy Blog last night, Google defended its competitive practices once again.