FTC preparing broad antitrust probe against Google

By on June 23, 2011, 8:35 PM

The US Federal Trade Commission is reportedly preparing to launch a sweeping antitrust investigation against Google, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing people familiar with the matter, the WSJ reports that the FTC plans to serve subpoenas in the next few days, launching what is expected to be the largest probe Google has faced in the US.

As with most antitrust inquiries, the FTC plans to determine whether Google is abusing its market dominance to hinder competition. Although the probe will undoubtedly involve the company's search engine, the FTC isn't necessarily focused on search rivalries between Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. Instead, it will focus on Google's advertising business.

The WSJ's sources believe the agency is more interested in whether Google's search engine favors its own products. For instance, if a user searches for a free online photo gallery or email service, does Google unfairly list Picasa or Gmail first? Considering the company's ever-expanding portfolio, such behavior could have far-reaching consequences.

Many companies have accused Google of anticompetitive practices, including travel services such as Expedia, as well as local listings services like Yelp. It's also worth noting that this isn't Google's first run in with the FTC. The company recently settled an inquiry over Buzz, and the two nearly butted heads over Google's AdMob acquisition.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice is supposedly reviewing Google's buyout of Admeld, and the DoJ recently forced Google and other tech giants to abandon a pact that would prevent them from "poaching" each other's employees. The search giant is also facing heavy friction in Europe, following numerous complaints of unfair business practices.

Google and the FTC declined to comment on the WSJ's report. The information "didn't come from us," said an FTC spokeswoman. Google has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. "It may seem obvious, but people sometimes forget this -- not every website can come out on top, or even appear on the first page," Google SVP Susan Wojcicki said in November.

"There will almost always be website owners who are unhappy about their rankings," she continued. Wojcicki also noted that Google strives to be as transparent as possible without helping people game its algorithms -- something that has been a serious issue in the past. "We do everything we can to ensure that the integrity of our results isn't compromised."




User Comments: 9

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stewi0001 stewi0001 said:

gah get over it... Google is not the INTERNET yet..... if you go to Microsoft you aint gonna see any Mac products and vicia versa. I would expect Yahoo to have their email above Googles...

matrix86 matrix86 said:

Oooook. When I look up "free online photo gallery" my first result is MyPhotoAlbum.com, and when I look up "free online maps" Google Maps doesn't even come up as a result, and "free online document storage" puts Google Docs at 3rd. (*note, this does not include the "ads" section above the search results...I never pay attention to that section, lol).

aj_the_kidd said:

who honestly thinks anything will come out of this "probing" of Google

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Google:

e-mail: Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo

maps: Google, Yahoo, Mapquest

books: B&N, Google, Amazon

photos: flicker, photos.com, picasa

travel: orbitz, expedia, kayak (never heard of it)

plane tickets: cheaptickets, delta, expedia

hotel: priceline, hotels.com, travelocity

Yahoo:

e-mail: Yahoo, Wikipedia entry for e-mail, hotmail

maps: Yahoo, Google, maps.com

books: B&N, google, wikipedia entry for books,

photos: flickr, photobucket, yahoo

travel: yahoo, travelocity, expedia

plane tickets: cheapoair, planetickets, orbitz

hotel: hotels.com, wikipedia entry for hotels, choicehotels.com

Bing:

e-mail: yahoo, wikipedia, hotmail

maps: yahoo, google, maps.com

books: B&N, google, wikipedia

photos: flickr, photbucket, yahoo

travel: yahoo, expedia, travelocity

plane tickets: cheapoair, planetickets, orbitz

hotel: hotels.com, wikipedia entry for hotels, choicehotels.com

(Halfway through doing the Bing searches I remember that Bing powers Yahoo)

My opinion: meh.

Chazz said:

stewi0001 said:

gah get over it... Google is not the INTERNET yet..... if you go to Microsoft you aint gonna see any Mac products and vicia versa. I would expect Yahoo to have their email above Googles...

Well at the same time, do you think it's fair that microsoft includes their competitor's software inside their software? ie. browsers.

Guest said:

when you climb to the top of the mountain you have to endure the wind and the cold. But you can also afford the best lawyers in the universe, so I think google will be ok. lol

albertjkruger said:

I have to say I think it ridiculous that a company like Google can't place their own products high up on search results. They own the search engine, don't they? As far as I know there is no contract (or anything of that sort) that prohibits them of doing that. Even if they were to decide to allow websites to pay them large amounts of money in exchange for a high ranking on search results, I would see it as within their rights. Yes, that would be a form of deception, but it's their search engine is it not?? Nobody's forced to use it...

Honestly, this is just ridiculous.

stewi0001 stewi0001 said:

chazz said:

stewi0001 said:

gah get over it... Google is not the INTERNET yet..... if you go to Microsoft you aint gonna see any Mac products and vicia versa. I would expect Yahoo to have their email above Googles...

Well at the same time, do you think it's fair that microsoft includes their competitor's software inside their software? ie. browsers.

Guess I should have been more specfic, I was talking about Microsoft's website and etc.

rculver9056 rculver9056 said:

"Free email" - Google third, "email" - Google second

Does this FTC actually get anything out of suing companies left, right and centre...Just a thought...

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