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Congress sniffing Google-DoubleClick deal

As FTC probe continues...

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The FTC inquiry was a just a start. In the coming weeks, Google will also face a pair of congressional investigations into its proposed $3.1bn merger with online ad company DoubleClick - one in the House and one in the Senate.

Microsoft and Yahoo! will be pleased - up to a point. A Senate subcommittee plans to scrutinize consolidation across the online ad industry, The New York Times reports. Microsoft recently agreed to purchase aQuantive, a DoubleClick competitor, and just last week, Yahoo! finalized its acquisition of RightMedia, another online ad firm.

In a recent letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Congressman Bobby L. Rush - chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection - asked for a private briefing on the FTC's ongoing investigation of the Google-DoubleClick deal, saying that he intends to hold a hearing on the proposed acquisition.

“There is widespread concern about the proposed merger between Google and DoubleClick that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) currently is reviewing," Rush said in his letter to FTC chair Deborah Majoras. "Concerns have focused not only on the implications for competition – in online advertising and other possibly affected markets – but also on the potentially enormous impact on consumer privacy."

Meanwhile, The New York Times claims that a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee is planning a similar hearing, citing "a source familiar with the hearing." But this investigation will have a broader scope, looking at other online ad mergers.

When Google announced its DoubleClick deal this spring, several companies - most notably Microsoft - questioned whether the merger would inhibit competition in the online ad industry and endanger end-user privacy. You could call it a case of sour grapes - evidently, Microsoft put in its own bid for DoubleClick - but various privacy groups complained as well, and the FTC continues to examine the deal. The commission also investigated the Microsoft and Yahoo! mergers, before rubber-stamping both.®

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