Bloomberg News

Google Antitrust Probe Said to Grow as FTC Demands Information

August 13, 2011

Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The antitrust investigation of Google Inc. by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has expanded with demands for information from other technology companies, two people familiar with the matter said.

The people, who didn’t want to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak about the probe, said they didn’t know which companies received the so-called civil investigative demands from the FTC. The demands are similar to subpoenas.

Likely recipients of the demands, which will probably be sent out in groups, are rivals that have complained that Google has used its dominance as the world’s most popular search engine to hurt competition in the Internet industry, said a third person familiar with the matter.

Those companies include Microsoft Corp., online travel agency Expedia Inc. and Yelp Inc., a restaurant review website, said the third person, asking for anonymity because of the lack of authorization to speak publicly.

Microsoft hasn’t received a demand yet, said Jack Evans, a spokesman for the Redmond, Washington-based company. “We will cooperate with any request we receive for additional information from the FTC,” he said in an e-mail.

Vince Sollitto, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Yelp, declined to comment. Katie Dinas, a spokeswoman for Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia, didn’t immediately return phone calls and an e-mail seeking comment.

“We understand that with success comes scrutiny and we’re happy to answer any questions about our business,” said Mistique Cano, a spokeswoman for Mountain View, California-based Google.

Outside Reviews

Google said July 21 that it decided to remove outside reviews from its Places pages, which direct users to local establishments. Companies including Yelp and Expedia’s TripAdvisor complained that Google used their content without permission and misrepresented information on their sites.

The FTC has been talking to Internet companies for months in preparation for sending out the demands, the third person said.

In June, the FTC sent Google a subpoena related to the investigation, according to a regulatory filing by the company.

The FTC is focusing on whether Google unfairly ranks search results to favor its own businesses and increases advertising rates for competitors, the third person said. The agency also is examining whether the company is using its control of the Android mobile operating system to discourage smart-phone makers from using rivals’ applications, the person said.

In a Massachusetts state court case, Skyhook Wireless alleges Google pressured Motorola Inc. and other Skyhook customers not to use the Boston-based company’s software for pinpointing a cell phone’s location.

Google makes a product that competes with Skyhook’s.

--Editors: Jim Rubin, Michael Hytha

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net; Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net; Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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