Senate wades into Google antitrust cases

Google’s dominance is once again taking a beating with senators now calling for investigations over its reported anticompetitive business practices.

This time Republican Senator Mike Lee has waded into the dispute writing a letter to fellow senator  Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee.

In his letter Mr Lee wrote: “The powerful position Google occupies in the general search arena creates myriad opportunities for anticompetitive behaviour.

“The combination of behavioural and personal information enables Google to generate consumer data that is unprecedented in scale and scope. These activities raise serious privacy concerns and may be indicative of an important market that is largely unconstrained by competition. Antitrust enforcement may unlock beneficial competition for the protection of user privacy and avert the need for additional privacy regulation.”

His writings come just as Mr Kohl announced that a subcommittee would examine complaints about Google’s ranking system.

Mr Kohl isn’t pleased with Google either. He claims that over the recent years the compay has dominated the internet search industry and therefore created its own business which are in competition to others. “In this regard, we will closely examine allegations raised by e-commerce websites that compete with Google that they are being treated unfairly in search ranking, and in their ability to purchase search advertising,” he wrote.

The sentate has picked up this particular case following an initial complaint by Microsoft last year. It went to the European Commission claiming that Google had abused a dominant position in online search, which could be in violation of European Union rules.

The EC opened up an antitrust claim following Microsoft and others moans about unfavourable treatment of services in Google’s unpaid and sponsored search results – coupled with an alleged preferential placement of Google’s own services.

Google’s search engine provides for two types of results when people are searching for information. There are unpaid search results, which can be referred to as “natural”, “organic” or “algorithmic” search results, and third party advertisements shown at the top and at the right hand side of Google’s search results page, which are paid search results or sponsored links.

The Commission said that it would investigate whether Google had abused a dominant market position in online search by allegedly lowering the ranking of unpaid search results of competing services.

However, this is just one of many antitrust concerns poured over Google thanks to its sticking fingers into as many pies at it can.  The Department of Justice is considering an antitrust suit against Google’s proposed acquisition of travel software maker ITA, a deal that has been in regulatory limbo since July 2010.

Google spokesperson Adam Kovacevich however was none too pleased about the senator’s comments and concerns. He told ARS Technica that there was still a healthy amount of competition in the market and Google’s aim was solely just to give people quick search results.

But according to Business Insider Politix editor John Ellis, the Senator is really only staging the meeting and investigation to line his pockets. He claims that by telling the world that the sentate is holding “anti trust” hearings that this will raise funds.

“You say that the hearings will be coming in the months ahead.  Then you fund-raise from all concerned; the companies being investigated and those that seek to dethrone them,” he wrote.