News has been broken on Bloomberg.com this week that the search engine giant, Google, may be subject to an anti-trust investigation by U.S. Federal Trade Commission following the proposed take over of travel company, ITA Software.
Currently the Justice Department is also scrutinising this deal on the grounds that this is a threat to competition in the travel-information search business. It’s believed that the FTC would prefer a broader-based investigation into the practices of Google Inc and its dominance of the internet search industry, but is prepared to wait until the Justice Department has reached its decision.
Unnamed sources within the FTC state the commission is keen to investigate the World’s most popular and powerful search engine, however under the American legal system responsibility for the oversight of anti-competition laws is shared between the two departments. The final outcome of the ITA acquisition may yet determine which agency takes the matter on.
Google is facing growing scrutiny from regulators on both sides of the Atlantic as it seeks to bolster its search business.
Officials in Texas are already looking into the Google’s dominance of the search engine market, and Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, is also said to be considering launching his own independent investigation.
A further complaint from Microsoft last month may mean the investigation is expanded to look into online video and mobile phones as well. The EU Commission has also launched its own probe into whether Google has discriminated against other services in search results and stopped websites from accepting rival advertisements.
Google remains unrepentant though, and has stated that if consumers don’t like what the company is doing, then they can always switch their allegiances to another search engine.
Google spokesman, Adam Kovacevich, pulled no punches when asked about the possible investigation and complaints from both consumers and rival search engines:
“Since competition is one click away on the Internet, we work hard to put our users’ interests first, and give them the best, most relevant answers to their queries. We built Google for users, not websites.”
The attitude is surprising, given that Google has called for the use of this type of legislative investigation in the past: when Microsoft was dominating the market, Google was the first to complain about possible breaches of anti-trust laws. Now the roles are reversed, it appears it’s more a question of do as I say, not as I do.