Google faces US anti-trust probe
Google is to be investigated by the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it has abused its dominant position in online search
Published 24/06/2011 | 10:41
Google is set to face extensive formal and long-running investigations into its dominant position in the online search market, reports say.
America’s Federal Trade Commission is to serve official requests to the company for information over the next few days and is likely to ask for information from companies that have dealt with the search giant later.
The civil antitrust probe is not the first that Google has faced, but it is likely to be the most extensive to date. Previous investigations have been largely limited to the company’s purchases of other businesses.
This inquiry, however, will relate to search advertising, the fundamental business that had made Google a mulit-billion pound company.
At the heart of the investigation will be the allegation that Google manipulates its search results to direct disproportionate amounts of traffic to its own sites, such as YouTube.
Google has always prided itself on the purity of the algorithm that powers search results. It claims that it makes manual adjustments solely to improve the service for consumers.
The case has clear echoes of antitrust probes into Microsoft in the Nineties, which saw the company pay millions of pounds in fines and prevented from apparent plans to dominate huge swathes of the IT sector.
Google, however, will benefit from changed laws, and from the difficulty of proving that Google abused its powerful position, rather than simply providing a service that millions of businesses and consumers choose to use every day.
The company said that users can easily switch to other services. It handles more than two-thirds of US searches online and four out of every five web searches across Europe.
Representatives for Google and the FTC did not comment. A European Commission investigation is also in progress. Google denies those allegations.