Wednesday, June 5, 2554

F.T.C. It is said near a move on Google

For several months, lawyers at the Commission have collected information on Google search and search results to commercial advertising and the manner in which orders and related advertising constitutes illegal anti-competitive behaviour.

This month, Commissioners privately debated whether the competition authorise the Bureau to issue subpoenas to Google and are close to moving forward. As Commission Thursday afternoon, formalities remained before the investigation has officially begun, but two people with knowledge of the matter said a final decision to issue the subpoenas was forthcoming within days. They agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity because the action was not yet final and because it might be postponed if the Commission requested further information.

The Commission's action was reported online by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. Spokesmen for Google and the Federal Trade Commission declined to comment.

Google has been the target of antitrust repeated requests in recent years, most of them involving proposed acquisitions. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice have conducted reviews of acquisitions of Google DoubleClick Advertising Internet companies and AdMob.

More recently, the Justice Department reviewing Google's purchase of ITA Software, a provider of travel. In this case, the Government cleared the merger only after Google has agreed to conditions and continuous monitoring of the Government. Just this month, the Justice Department began an investigation into the acquisition of 400 million Admeld, Google that provides advertising services to publishers.

In 2008, the Department of Justice has blocked a proposed advertising deal between Google and Yahoo because of concerns about its effect on competition. Last year, also opposed a sweeping Court settlement between Google and publishers and authors, partly because the agreement would give Google too much power over the market for digital books.

But unlike these cases, which affected only a small part of Google's business, the current investigation is focusing on Google's main activities: research on the Internet and advertising. If port charges against the company, the impact could be more profound, antitrust experts.

"This is the main Act," said Ted Henneberry, a former trial attorney at the Department of Justice and partner of Orrick Herrington and Sutcliffe.

If Google is found to have abused its dominant position in Internet search and advertising, would levy fines F.T.C. not. But has the authority to issue orders to cease-and-desist for violations of the Law Commission, and may even file a lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction against certain behaviors. The Department of Justice and the F.T.C. share jurisdiction over antitrust issues. But as a matter of practice they alternate which the Agency takes the lead in an investigation.

Critics of Google have pushed for a broad antitrust investigation into the company's research activities, where it controls about two-thirds of the market in the United States. In the past, the company's executives have said that the more control by regulators is a normal byproduct of his success.

Addressing in particular the results of research, company officials say its ranking decisions are made for the benefit of users and that, as with any system of classification, some parties will be satisfied with their marketing.

The company's market share remained stable in recent years. According to comScore, Google search stops controlled 65.5% of the market in may; Yahoo had 16 percent and 14 percent Bing.

Last year, the European Commission has opened their antitrust investigation into Google's search activity, after complaints from small firms, who said that Google downgraded their sites in its search results, giving a favor to their Web services. The investigation is pending.

Making a site more or less likely to climb to the top of its search results, Google theoretically could affect how much traffic a website has gotten so as it could pay for advertising. If another company's Web site for, say, a travel service, competes with an ancillary activity, manipulation of Google search results could be considered anti-competitive.

Principal activity of search advertising to Google accounts for most of the company's revenue, which amounted to $ 29.3 billion last year., an organization that represents many of the critics of Google, including the websites of Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak and Microsoft said that it was encouraged by the reports of the investigation F.T.C ...

"Google engages in anti-competitive behaviour in many vertical search categories that harms consumers," the organisation said in a statement. "Is the result of anti-competitive practices by Google to curb innovation and investments in new technologies from other companies."

According to comScore, Google in May became the first company to have a billion unique visitors to their site in a month, a rate that was up 8 percent over a year earlier. Google's share price is down 19 percent since the beginning of the year.

Edward Wyatt reported from Washington and Miguel Helft from San Francisco.

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