FTC to Subpoena Google in Antitrust Investigation

By Erin Harrison June 23, 2011

The federal government is prepared to subpoena Google in what appears to be a “formal antitrust investigation into whether the search giant has abused its dominance on the Web,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Sources told the Journal that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is ready to serve Google with civil subpoenas in what would be a sign of a so-called wide-ranging probe as to whether the search giant has taken advantage of its forceful position.

“The five-member panel is preparing within days to send Google the formal demands for information, the people said. Other companies also are likely receiving official requests for information about their dealings with Google at a later stage,” the June 23, 2011 report said.

According to the Journal, representatives for both Google and the FTC declined to comment.

Although this is not the first time Google has faced antitrust probe, federal inquiries have “so far largely been limited to reviews of its mergers and acquisitions,” the Journal said.

TechZone360 CEO Rich Tehrani blogged on the matter earlier today, stating that Google’s dominance gives it the power to unfairly direct customers to its own companies.

“There is absolutely no question Google is massively powerful and can destroy companies and industries by directing users to its services. There is no way the company can deny this,” Tehrani blogged. “The interesting arguments we will likely hear as a result of this case are whether Google is a force of good or bad in the market. Google will obviously argue it is providing new services which help customers while competitors will argue they are locked out of the market because Google is unfairly competing – using its massively powerful search position to direct customers to sites which are owned by the company.”  

Google is also the subject of an antitrust inquiry by officials from the European Union, alleging that the company could be favoring its own sites in search results.

In February, TechZone360 reported that Google and the European Commission were apparently trying to find a way to settle the antitrust investigation by European regulators regarding Google’s search practices.

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Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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