Google May Be Subjected to US Antitrust Investigation

Word broke Tuesday that The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may be actively considering a “broad antitrust investigation” into Internet search giant Google. The probe would be related to Google’s supposed “dominance of the Internet-search industry.”

Two people familiar with the potential probe spoke on a basis of anonymity with Bloomberg.

The sources noted that no probe will move forward until the Justice Department decides whether it will challenge Google’s planned acquisition of ITA Software Inc. “as a threat to competition in the travel-information search business.”

The FTC and Justice Department share responsibility for oversight of antitrust enforcement, and the outcome of the ITA deal may determine whether the two agencies will vie for control of a broader probe of Google, the people said. The two agencies sometimes negotiate which will handle major antitrust investigations, with the decision turning on their respective expertise.

By all accounts, if a probe ultimately manifests, it could be tantamount to the Justice Department’s massive probe of Microsoft some ten years ago.

Keith Hylton, an antitrust law professor at Boston University School of Law, tells Bloomberg that Google “could fight the FTC, but that’s going to cost a lot of money and time.”

Although it isn’t known when the Justice Department will announce its decision, it is expected “soon.”

In March, FTC Commissioner Thomas Rosch stated his support for probes into “the dominant players in the Internet-search industry.” By all accounts, it now appears that Google may be at the center of this stated intention.

To read the full report from Bloomberg, click here.