Google Likely To Face US Antitrust Case Later This Year

Bloomberg provides more evidence of a coming antitrust investigation of Google by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or Justice Department. We’ve now been hearing these kinds of statements and suggestions — from various “unnamed sources” and “people with knowledge of the matter” — for months. The Bloomberg article says that the ITA-acquisition decision could come very soon, followed by a potentially broad probe of Google.

It’s still not clear whether the government will attempt to block the ITA acquisition. My original thought when the deal was announced last year was that it would; however the US could also allow the acquisition with strict conditions.

Comparable to the Microsoft Investigation?

There’s an expert comment in the mostly speculative Bloomberg piece about a Google investigation being “on par” with the one conducted against Microsoft more than a decade ago. Though a judge (in 2000) found that “Microsoft maintained its monopoly power by anti-competitive means and attempted to monopolize the Web browser market,” the company was mostly just embarrassed by the ruling.

During the remedial phase of the process the Bush Administration shifted enforcement to the various states and the case mostly disappeared. In Europe it was a different story, as legal actions against Microsoft went on for a number of years and resulted in more than $2 billion in fines.

Right now the European Commission is in the middle of an antitrust investigation against Google. The Europeans seem intent upon imposing some sort of punishment, controls and/or fines upon Google. This has started to happen in litigation and regulatory actions in individual European countries, most recently in Switzerland with Street View.

Bipartisan Call for Investigation

In this country Texas has already undertaken a formal investigation against Google’s business practices. Other states, such as Ohio, are considering similar moves. There’s also bipartisan support for investigating Google in Congress.

Recently, Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, the head of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, said that Google would be the subject of scrutiny by his committee this session in Congress. Many Republicans have also called for investigations of Google.

There are a range of statutes that the government could invoke in an antitrust investigation or to negotiate a settlement with Google. Any potential remedies would largely depend on specific competitive violations found. However as I’ve discussed previously any effort to regulate SERPs themselves are highly problematic and largely unworkable.

Regardless of whether there’s a formal US antitrust inquiry against Google, life will ultimately go on. There potentially could be fines, restrictions of some sort or some sort of audit or monitoring, as with the FTC’s recent, excessive privacy settlement with Google. But just as Microsoft survived the government’s investigation (so have others such as Intel) Google will survive and probably continue to thrive on the other side.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Legal: General | Legal: Regulation | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Sidharth Dassani

    Wrong English – should have written Google likely instead of Google like

  • Gyi Tsakalakis

    Greg, I’m with you: “effort to regulate SERPs themselves are highly problematic and largely unworkable.”

    Beyond the “sponsored ads” requirement, I just don’t find search under the purview of the government. However, there are many other areas into which Google is “exploring” that could be.

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide