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Bloomberg: FTC Asks EBay, Yelp, Others if Google is "Competing Unfairly"

On the heels of yesterday’s news that the European Commission has given Google a “matter of weeks” to propose remedies to its anticompetitive business practices, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s has taken another step in its investigation. Bloomberg reports that “U.S. antitrust regulators told EBay Inc. (EBAY) and Yelp Inc. (YELP) to provide information on whether Google Inc. (GOOG) is competing unfairly.” These companies were among “about a dozen” including NexTag and TheFind that received civil investigative demands (CID) from the FTC (CIDs are similar to subpoenas), Bloomberg reported. According to the article, “Agency officials also asked if Google, the world’s most popular search engine, is selling rivals prime advertising space on search results pages.”

In April, the FTC hired Washington lawyer Beth Wilkinson to serve as outside counsel in its case against Google. At the time, The New York Times reported that by hiring Wilkinson, the FTC was “sending a strong signal that they are prepared to take the Internet giant to court.”

In August 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that the investigation would extend to Google’s Android mobile operating system and other search related services. According to the report, FTC antitrust officials are examining:

  1. “Whether Google prevents smartphone manufacturers that use its Android operating system from using competitors’ services;”
  2. “Whether Google grants preferential placement on its website to its own products, such as Google’s ‘Places’ business listings, its ‘Shopping results’ or Google Finance services above most other results;” and about
  3. “Allegations that Google unfairly takes information collected by rivals, such as reviews of local businesses, to use on its own specialized site and then demotes the rivals’ services in its search results.”

As the FTC continues its investigation, FairSearch echoes Senators Kohl and Lee in their joint statement yesterday: “We continue to urge the FTC to investigate the concerns we raised at our hearing and to ensure a competitive search market where consumers can fairly pick the winners and losers in our online economy.”