Senators urge FTC to investigate Google

Two U.S. senators asked the FTC to look into possible antitrust violations by Google

Two U.S. senators on Monday urged the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google for possible antitrust violations.

In June, Google acknowledged that the FTC had launched a review of its business, but the FTC has not offered specifics about what aspects of Google's business it is examining.

Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, have asked the FTC to look at the alleged practice at Google of listing its own websites and products first in Web searches. "While we take no position on the ultimate legality of Google's practices under the antitrust laws and the FTC Act, we believe these concerns warrant a thorough investigation by the FTC," they wrote in a letter to the agency.

Kohl and Lee oversaw hearings earlier this year examining whether Google favors its own properties in Web search results. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt testified during that hearing.

The letter goes on to quote Marissa Mayer, a Google vice president, as saying in 2007 that Google does rank services such as Google Finance and Google Maps at the top of search results. The letter also refers to testimony during the hearings from executives at competitive Web organizations who said Google penalizes them in order to maintain its dominant market share in search.

"In sum, it appears the issues raised at our Subcommittee hearing merit serious scrutiny by the FTC," they wrote. "According to Tom Barnett, the assistant attorney general for antitrust in the administration of President George W. Bush, the ultimate result of Google's practices will be an Internet with fewer choices for consumers and businesses, higher prices and less innovation."

They note that Google denies the arguments of its critics. Google did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The FTC typically does not disclose details of its investigations.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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