Feeds

Google faces possible antitrust probes in two other states

The EU and Texas. Maybe Ohio and Wisconsin

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Google is facing a possible antitrust probe in the state of Ohio, and according to a report citing a person familiar with the matter, Wisconsin is weighing a Google antitrust probe of its own.

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that both states were considering investigations of the web giant. Speaking with The Register, Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, confirmed that the state is considering a probe. "We are evaluating the facts to determine if it’s something we want to review,” he said, before declining to elaborate.

According to Bloomberg, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is weighing a probe of Google’s proposed acquisition of flight data outfit ITA Software, a deal already under investigation by the US Department of Justice. A spokesman for the Wisconsin Attorney General declined to comment on the matter. "Wisconsin doesn't disclose what it is investigating," he told us.

Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich also declined to comment on the Bloomberg story, but he pointed us to a blog post the company published when it was revealed that the state of Texas had launched an antitrust probe of Google. "We've always worked hard to ensure that our success is earned the right way - by building great products, not locking in our users or advertisers," the post reads. "That said, we recognize that as Google grows, we’re going to face more questions about how our business works."

According to Google, the Texas Attorney General has requested information regarding three companies, including UK-based price comparison engine Foundem, which is also the subject of a Google antitrust investigation in the European Union. The other two companies are the New York-based TradeComet and the Ohio-based myTriggers. Both of those companies operate vertical search engines and both have filed their own antitrust lawsuits against Google.

Famously, the mid-90s antitrust suit against Microsoft began in Texas. After that state opened its Redmond probe, the Department of Justice joined 20 states in the suit against the company.

The DoJ continues to investigate Google's proposed acquisition of ITA Software, eight months after the deal was first announced. ITA makes software that provides consumer flight and ticketing information of other companies, and Google says it wants to use ITA to expand its online flight services. A coalition of companies – including Microsoft and travel outfits Expedia and Travelocity – have opposed the acquisition, and the American Antitrust Institute, an independent watchdog, has published a paper questioning whether the deal could give Google an unfair advantage in the travel search market.

"In the narrowest sense, acquiring ITA would put Google in the business of supplying a technology input that powers downstream products in a vertical online search market. That is, Google would own what many consider to be the premier technology that online travel agents, travel meta-search websites, and airline websites license from ITA to afford Internet users the ability to search real-time pricing and seat availability data in the course of shopping for airline tickets online," the paper reads.

"Neither Google nor ITA currently competes in the provision of this data to Internet users by 'online travel search' firms, but together they seem to have such firms surrounded. Companies like Kayak, Orbitz and Hotwire, as well as airlines, rely heavily on Google to tell consumers where they can get airline pricing and availability data on the Internet, and they rely heavily on ITA to deliver the data itself."

According to Net Marketshare, Google controls more than 85 per cent of the overall web search market, but its market share may be higher.

The concern is that Google could unfairly use its web search monopoly to create a monopoly in the "vertical" flight search market. According to US antitrust law, it is not illegal to have a monopoly. But it is illegal to use that monopoly power in one market to try to control another.

In its complaint to the European Union, Foundem expresses similar concerns, arguing that Google could used its so-called Universal Search setup to unfairly dominate any vertical search market. Universal Search inserts links from other Google services into prominent positions of the company's main web search results pages. "Universal Search transforms Google’s ostensibly neutral search engine into an immensely powerful marketing channel for Google’s other services," Foundem has said.

"[It] allows Google to leverage its search engine monopoly into virtually any field it chooses. Wherever it does so, competitors will be harmed, new entrants will be discouraged, and innovation will inevitably be suppressed." ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.