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US Senators want the FTC to look at Google

Letter urges competition probe
Tue Dec 20 2011, 10:04

A BRACE of US Senators have written to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) expressing concerns about Google's internet dominance.

The letter comes from Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican. They write that although they cannot pin anything anti-competitive on the internet search and advertising giant, the FTC might, if it takes the time to look at Google properly.

"While we take no position on the ultimate legality of Google's practices (PDF) under the antitrust laws and the FTC Act, we believe these concerns warrant a thorough investigation by the FTC," they said.

The two Senators headed up a subcommittee that looked at Google's business in September, and it appears that Google executives did themselves no favours there. Chairman Eric Schmidt is quoted as having said, "I would agree, Senator, that we are in that area," in response to questions about whether the company has an online search monopoly.

The Senators further warn that Google faces only one real competitor, Microsoft's Bing.

They add that the search business has grown from being a referrer into a provider of online services, and caution it is possible that Google might favour these when returning its results.

On hand is a quote from Marissa Meyer, Google's VP of location services, who in 2007 said that it was "only fair" that the firm posted its links first. She added that this had always been the firm's policy, according to the letter.

The Senators added that a key question for the FTC is whether this actually is the case.

They also ask the FTC to consider what Google could do with the Android mobile operating system, and suggest that although it does not now, the firm could force hardware makers that use Android to set its search engine as the default. µ


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