Google Antitrust Hearing Requested by U.S. Senators

Google March 11 found itself in the cross hairs of U.S. senators intent on pursuing the search engine for alleged anti-competitive practices in a market it dominates.

Despite competition that exists just a click away, the bull's-eye on Google's back has grown as big as its 65 percent U.S. search market share in the eyes of the U.S. Senate.

One day after the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights vowed to ensure fair competition in the Internet search market dominated by Google, Sen. Michael S. Lee, R-Utah, March 11 called for the subcommittee to conduct an oversight hearing on the search giant.

Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said in a March 10 statement on the group's agenda that he wants to make sure Internet search is fair to users and customers, that consumers' privacy is preserved, and that advertisers who pay search engines to place information about their goods and services have sufficient choices.

It's no coincidence that these, along with Google's increased appetite for acquisitions that fortify its massive market plot, are all areas where Google has found itself challenged in 2010.

"In recent years, the dominance over Internet search of the world's largest search engine, Google, has increased and Google has increasingly sought to acquire e-commerce sites in myriad businesses," Kohl said in a statement.

"In this regard, we will 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. We also will continue to closely examine the impact of further acquisitions in this sector."

Lee fervently supported Kohl's stance and called for the Senate to conduct oversight hearings into the company's search, advertising, and merger and acquisition practices, which have made it a sort of "gatekeeper over a variety of Internet businesses."

Lee cited Google's $700 million bid for ITA Software as an example. Google July 1, 2010, moved to purchase ITA to gain access to online flight fare and scheduling information that is used by a number of online travel and vertical companies, including Expedia, Kayak and Microsoft.