On December 19, US Senators Herb Kohl and Mike Lee in a five-page letter to Chariman of the Federal Trade Commission, Jonathan Leibowitz, requested for a “serious scrutiny” of Google’s business practices and, more specifically, if Google’s is acting anti-competitively when its own properties are positioned highly in search results.
In their letter jointly signed by the Senators Kohl and Lee says “We are writing to you regarding our examination of competition concerns arising from the business practices of the world’s leading Internet search engine, Google Inc. (“Google”). On September 21, 2011, we held an Antitrust Subcommittee hearing to examine allegations that Google’s search engine is biased in favor of its own secondary products and services, undermining free and fair competition among e-commerce websites. While we take no position on the ultimate legality of Google’s practices under the antitrust laws and the FTC Act, we believe these concers warrant a thorought invesigation by the FTC. We detail below a number of concerns raised at the hearing, in the course of our Subcommittee inquiry, and by a number of industry participants that we believe deserve careful review.”
The letter points out that Google results tend to favor their other properties like Google Maps, Google Finance, Google News and YouTube, and that in recent years they’ve been very successful at displacing the previous market leader in those areas. As evidence of bias they point out that in 2007, Google’s own Marissa Mayer, Vice President of their location offerings, did preference their own websites because “it only seems fair, right?”
In November, Schmidt answered many of the charges brought up during the hearing in lengthy written replies to different committee members. His response to the claim that Google favors its own products in search results was to make the specious argument that Google doesn’t have separate products outside of its search service — never mind that Google actually hosts a page titled Products – Everything Google listing all of its products, including web search.
Here Kohl and Lee’s letter: