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The US Federal Trade Commission is poised to open a formal antitrust probe into whether Internet search giant Google has abused its dominance on the Web, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The newspaper, citing “people familiar with the matter,” said the FTC is preparing to serve Google with civil subpoenas “signalling the start of a wide-ranging, formal antitrust investigation.”
Wall Street Journal sources say the five-member FTC commission will send Google the formal demands for information “within days” and other companies were likely to receive requests for information about their dealings with Google.
The FTC declined to comment on the report and there was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Mountain View, California-based Google.
This is the latest in a series of antitrust cases brought against Google by the FTC and the US Department of Justice in recent years.
According to the Journal, the FTC’s probe “is the most serious to date” in the United States because it will examine “fundamental issues relating to Google’s core search advertising business.
The newspaper said the FTC investigation is expected to take a year or more to unfold and “won’t necessarily lead to any federal allegations of wrongdoing against the company. The Journal added that the probe will look at whether Google “unfairly channels users to its own growing network of services at the expense of rivals.”
The probe is largely as a result of Google’s dominance over the US internet search market. A recent study by US digital marketing firm, eMarketer revealed that , Google’s share of net US search advertising revenue will grow 38.9 percent this year to US$10.92 billion, giving Google a 75.9 percent share of overall US search revenue.
The FTC probe comes in the wake of Google chief executive Larry Page and executive chairman Eric Schmidt being asked to attend a senate hearing in Washington DC. The hearing will focus on issues surrounding competition in internet search.
Google proposed that chief legal officer David Drummond testify instead but the senators behind the hearing said in a letter that they would “strongly prefer” for Page or Schmidt attend the hearing.
“A hearing on this important topic would be incomplete without the direct perspective and views from one of Google’s top two executives,” they said.
The latest probe also comes in the midst of the Justice Department’s currently antitrust review of Google’s recent $400 million acquisition of Internet advertising company Admeld. –AFP