Mutterings of a a broad antitrust investigation of Google by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have been heard for a few months now, and there is still nothing official yet. Neither the FTC nor Google has commented on this.
The mutterings continue, however. Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting (citing “people familiar with the matter”) that the FTC is getting ready to serve Google subpoenas and other companies official requests for info about their dealings with Google.
Sounds like it’s getting close. Such a probe would hardly be surprising, given the plethora of complaints that have arisen, surrounding Google’s search dominance and numerous (and I do mean numerous) acquisitions. Although, the fact that competitors continue to grow their share of the search market, might actually help Google’s case, even if they are the largest web property on the web, having surpassed a billion unique monthly visitors worldwide.
The WSJ says the probe would examine “fundamental issues relating to Google’s core search advertising business, which still accounts for the overwhelming majority of its revenues.”
The FairSearch Coalition, an organization comprised of Google competitors (mainly in the travel sector – as it was originally formed to push for the blocking of Google’s acquisition of ITA Software – an unsuccessful campaign on FairSearch’s part), recently pointed to a Bloomberg article indicating that the FTC investigation could take years to complete. If Bing continues to its pace of growth from month to month, one has to wonder if the case against Google (if their truly is one) will diminish as time progresses.
FairSearch gave us this statement: “The members of FairSearch.org are encouraged by reports that the FTC is preparing to launch a broad antitrust investigation into Google’s business practices. Google engages in anti-competitive behavior across many vertical categories of search that harms consumers by restricting the ability of other companies to compete to put the best products and services in front of Internet users, who should be allowed to pick winners and losers online, not Google. The result of Google’s anti-competitive practices is to curb innovation and investment in new technologies by other companies. These anti-competitive practices include scraping and using other companies’ content without their permission, deceptive display of search results, manipulation of search results to favor Google’s products, and the acquisition of competitive threats to Google’s dominance. Google’s practices are deserving of full-scale investigations by U.S. antitrust authorities, and are already the subject of reviews by the European Commission, and the Texas Attorney General.”
It will be very interesting to see which companies the FTC is looking for information from, and if collectively, they present a strong enough argument against Google’s competitive practices.
While Google is no stranger to antitrust regulatory proceedings, this could be the biggest, most significant yet.
While the company has not commented on the prospect of this new investigation, Google has always maintained that “competition is always a click away.”