The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the US Federal Trade Commission is "poised" to serve the company with subpoenas as the Commission looks to explore the company's dominance on the Web. According to people familiar with the matter, signaling the start of a wide-ranging, formal investigation into whether the Internet-search giant has abused its dominance on the Web.
The agency's five-member panel of commissioners is preparing to send its formal demands for information to Google within days, , and other companies may get similar requests asking for information "about their dealings with Google," the paper reports.
The investigation seems likely focused around Google's search ads and whether Google has somehow exercised unfair dominance of that area. Per WSJ article:
The new inquiry, by contrast, will examine fundamental issues relating to Google's core search-advertising business, said people familiar with the matter. The business is the source of most of Google's revenue. The issues include whether Google--which accounts for around two-thirds of Internet searches in the U.S. and more abroad--unfairly channels users to its own growing network of services at the expense of rival providers.
Some companies complain about the way that Google ranks its own services in its "natural" search results or the amount it charges them for placing ads, contending that its market power gives it the ability to determine whether businesses succeed or fail. Foundem.co.uk, one of the companies whose complaints triggered the European probe, claims that Google demoted Foundem's comparative shopping services in its listings and gave premium placement to Google's own product-search results instead.
Google has long denied acting in an anticompetitive manner, saying that users can easily navigate to other choices on the Web. Many of the antitrust inquiries, Google says, are sparked by companies that fear their business models will be upended by its entry into their market.
The FTC's preparations to subpoena Google are the first concrete signal that its commissioners have decided there's enough evidence to move forward with a formal investigation.
Representatives from both Google and the FTC declined to talk to the WSJ about the report.