Google prepares for antitrust hearing on Wednesday

By Lee Kaelin on September 19, 2011, 10:00 AM

Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt will go before an antitrust Senate panel on Wednesday to testify against claims that the company is unfairly using its dominance to thwart competition, and thus is harming consumers.

Since May, the search giant has hired at least 13 different lobbying and communication companies in response to the US Federal Trade Commission ramping up its investigation. It hopes public figures such as ex-House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt and the son of Senator Richard Lugar on its side will help them when they face a grilling on Wednesday.

The company is also making good use of adverts to show the public how important the services they offer are for small businesses, as well as highlighting the job opportunities they create. They argue that they are trying to offer users the best-cultivated search responses to their queries.

Schmidt has managed to get agreement from the Senate panel to face them alone, with those opposing him having chance to air concerns after he has testified at the hearing.  Executives representing Expedia and Yelp are expected to testify after Schmidt, both of which accuse Google of favoring its own products over theirs.

Having the spotlight will no doubt help Schmidt compose himself during the hearing, avoiding a repeat of the bashing Bill Gates received from competitors during his Microsoft antitrust hearing back in the nineties.

Antitrust hearings are always risky though, as Google's top executive could easily find himself on the wrong side of the committee if he words his responses incorrectly. He will also be hard pressed to argue the companies dominance of the global search market, in which his corporation has a two-thirds share.

Late last week, the EU Competition Commission also said they plan to investigate Google over complaints that it is abusing its position as the dominate provider of search results for European web users.

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