Lawmakers Seek FTC Scrutiny of Google’s Search Results

By Mikal E. Belicove|For|December 22, 2011

Two U.S. senators fired off a letter to the Federal Trade Commission this week calling for an investigation into what they allege as bias by Google in favor of its own products and services in search results.

Senators Herb Kohl (D., Wis.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah), both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, claim that by consistently pushing search results related to sites and services it owns over those owned and operated by others, Google is “undermining free and fair competition among ecommerce websites.”

In the five-page letter (PDF) to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, Kohl and Lee question whether Google — which currently owns approximately 65 percent of the search market here in the U.S., according to the latest figures available from comScore — may be acting in an anti-competitive manner with respect to antitrust laws and the FTC Act.

Among the search engine results cited by the pair as ranking higher are those related to products and services delivered by Google Travel, Google Finance, Google News, Google Maps, Google Product Search, Google Flight Search and YouTube. The senators question whether Google can be an unbiased general, or “horizontall,” search engine while owning such Web-based businesses from which it derives substantial advertising revenues.

In the letter, the senators cite one of Google’s top executives admitting in a 2007 subcommittee hearing that the company did indeed…

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