Google Search Probed by Texas AG for Antitrust

Google said Sept. 3 that the Texas Attorney General is conducting an antitrust investigation of complaints that Google harms competition with its search engine. Foundem and Microsoft have popped into the picture again.

Google said Sept. 3 that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is conducting an antitrust probe of complaints that the company stifles Websites that compete with its search engine.

Search Engine Land broke the news and Google Deputy General Counsel Don Harrison confirmed the investigation in a blog post. Abbott's office declined to discuss the case per its policy.

The cases cover those brought by shopping comparison Websites Foundem and myTriggers, and search directory SourceTools, all three of whom have ties to Microsoft.

Rankings, or where Websites are placed in Google's search results pages, can make or break companies that live online because Google commands roughly 65 percent of the search market.

The companies in the cases Abbott is looking at are looking to leverage the position that Google's power as the world's leading service provider put it in a position to harm smaller businesses.

Foundem, whose case came to the fore thanks to an investigation by the European Commission and the company's support from Microsoft, said in February Google unfairly lowers its rankings to boost its own Google Product search service.

MyTriggers and SourceTools have said Google denigrates their ad placement on its search engine, causing the companies to lose money. Both companies hired Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, which has done antitrust work for Microsoft.

Harrison reiterated the company line that some Websites have higher rankings than others because Google's algorithms are geared to find the most relevant results for users based on a number of signals.

"Given that not every Website can be at the top of the results, or even appear on the first page of our results, it's unsurprising that some less relevant, lower quality Websites will be unhappy with their ranking," Harrison said.