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Google Facing FTC Antitrust Probe



According to a published report in the Wall Street Journal, Google is getting some unwanted attention from the three lettered agency that may actually be worse than the IRS: the FTC.

The WSJ reports:

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is poised to serve Google Inc. with civil subpoenas, according to people familiar with the matter, signaling the start of a wide-ranging, formal antitrust investigation into whether the search giant has abused its dominance on the Web.

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

Representatives for both Google and the FTC declined to comment.

From Google’s perspective, the FTC’s embryonic antitrust probe is the most serious to date in the U.S. Although Google has faced numerous antitrust investigations in recent years, at least in the U.S., federal inquiries have so far largely been limited to reviews of its mergers and acquisitions.

Maybe this is an extension of the more heated scrutiny that the company has received by the European Commission in the past year. Since no one is saying anything beyond this report it’s pretty hard to tell. I am awaiting some word from Google but I am not holding my breath about details.

The article goes on to tell that this could be a serious deal.

The new FTC investigation, by contrast, will examine fundamental issues relating to Google’s core search-advertising business, which still accounts for the majority of its revenue. Those issues include whether Google—which accounts for around two-thirds of Internet searches in the U.S. and more abroad—unfairly channels users to its own growing network of services at the expense of rivals’.

Sounds an awful lot like the allegation from across the pond. Politically this is a ticking time bomb since Google was solidly behind the election of President Obama and there are many ex-Googlers in the administration.

That said, the president is having a very difficult time right now with his popularity at an all time low and the bulk of that is due to the economy in the states, which despite what the press says at times, is still pretty much in the crapper.

In reality this could all be much ado about nothing since, as the WSJ states, monopolies themselves aren’t illegal but rather the abuse of that position is. Now if that doesn’t seem subjective I don’t know what does but it’s how it works.

It’s also anticipated that this probe could take well over a year to complete and could end up with no charges being filed against the search giant. In other words, it’s too early to tell.

But let’s not let that kind of reality keep us from jabbering on about may or may not happen. Please, not that. Heck, with the election cycle speeding up much more rapidly than any economic recovery there needs to be something going on that looks like progress. Maybe this administration thinks that biting a rather large hand that feeds the economy (despite all the drags on it elsewhere) and could be argued to have kept the US out of an even more severe situation, is a good idea.

Who knows? One thing is for certain. No matter where this lands Google does not want to be in the crosshairs of the FTC. No one does.

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