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Sen. Lee, Ranking Member, Calls for Google Antitrust Hearing

Sen. Michael Lee (R-UT), ranking member of the Senate Antitrust Committee, this afternoon called for a hearing on Google’s “possible abuse of its predominant position in the general internet search arena and the need for vigorous antitrust oversight and enforcement in this area.” Lee is the latest in a string of Congressmen to voice concerns about Google’s dominance in a letter to Chairman Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI):

“Given its prominent position in the search and search advertising markets, Google in some ways acts as a gatekeeper over a variety of internet businesses. Among other things, commentators have expressed concern that Google may be using its position to harm specialized (or so-called “vertical”) search sites. If allowed to compete free of restraints, vertical search sites – such as travel, mapping, and shopping sites – could attract users and advertisers from Google’s search platforms. Some vertical search sites have accused Google of using its power to deprive those websites of internet traffic by biasing the display of its search-advertising and search results.”

Sen. Lee also highlights that “some claim that Google may disadvantage rivals in subtle, potentially undetectable, ways…The powerful position Google occupies in the general search arena creates myriad opportunities for anticompetitive behavior.”

Highlighting Google-ITA specifically, Sen. Lee called it “a deal that could potentially provide Google with the ability to control the travel search vertical market.”

This letter comes on the heels of Sen. Kohl’s announcement of the Senate Antitrust Committee’s agenda for the year. The announcement singled out Google and its growing dominance online, and offered that the subcommittee would “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.”