Google Rivals Not Shy in Throwing 'Monopoly' Word Around

CEOs for Yelp and NexTag, as well as the former DOJ antitrust enforcer took aim at Google at the Senate's hearing, where the word "monopoly" was used quite often to describe the search-engine giant.

Nothing catches the attention of the Senate at an antitrust hearing more than the world "monopoly," and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) rivals didn't miss an opportunity to drive that point home repeatedly during Congress' antitrust hearing Sept. 21.

Most who attended or watched the hearing online agreed Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt largely held his own. For the most part, he answered questions respectfully and appeared as forthcoming as possible.

There were some instances where he looked bad, namely when he couldn't confirm answers to some questions. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) properly admonished Schmidt for his fuzziness in certain answers. Yet Schmidt's candor and expertise in the industry outshone those instances.

On the second panel, Thomas Barnett, of Covington & Burling, NexTag CEO Jeffrey Katz, and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman did everything but call Google the second coming of Microsoft, which was found to be monopolistic a decade ago.

What follows is a summary of their testimonies under oath before Congress-not a summary of the question and answer sessions between them and the Senate. That's for another analysis.

Barnett, who led the Justice Department's antitrust division from 2005 to 2008 and is counsel for Expedia, spoke first for the opposition. Turning Schmidt's comment that Google "gets" what it's like to behave badly as company against company, Barnett said Google won't even admit to reality.

"Google has monopoly power in paid and search advertising. You don't have to take my word for it. You heard it. Both the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have conducted extensive investigations, and both of them, the expert agencies, reached factual determinations that show that Google has monopoly power."

Barnett explained that Google has built a search engine so good that no rival can match it. And frankly, consumers rarely leave it, as evidenced by Google's 65 percent U.S. search share, which is vastly greater in places overseas. The issue isn't so much that Google has monopoly power. Schmidt himself acknowledged in his testimony that Google plays "in that area" of monopoly.

Where Barnett fell short was in arguing Google abuses its monopoly power, noting that there are results within Google search where it offers links that are not algorithmic that take users to its own Places local search service. Google makes money from those clicks.

The problem is that Google does not disclose those links as non-algorithmic. What's not clear is whether the majority of those clicks lead to Google results and whether that constitutes an unfair business practice. Barnett failed to prove that.