The pressure on Google to come clean about its business practices and behaviour as a dominant player was raised in the US this week as two leading senators made a formal plea for an investigation into Google.
Senators Herb Kohl (a Democrat) and Mike Lee (a Republican), both members of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, released a letter supporting an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into Google. The clear implication is that following the subcommittee’s hearing in September Google still has many questions to answer. In the press release accompanying the letter the following paragraph is pulled out:
“We believe these allegations regarding Google’s search engine practices raise important competition issues. We are committed to ensuring that consumers benefit from robust competition in online search and that the Internet remains the source of much free-market innovation. We therefore urge the FTC to investigate the issues raised at our Subcommittee hearing to determine whether Google’s actions violate antitrust law or substantially harm consumers or competition in this vital industry.”
ICOMP wholeheartedly supports these views and applauds the Senators for continuing to press on these issues. It is evident that Eric Schmidt’s testimony in front of the Antitrust Subcommittee did little to allay their fears that it was both a dominant force in search and that its practices continue to raise cause for concern.
ICOMP member Foundem commented at the time on Schmidt’s evasion and lack of clarity in answering many of the senators’ questions, posting this blog highlighting the areas in which it felt Google’s answers were not sufficient. It seems that the Senators’ shared their views.
Significant amongst the Senator’s comments was the concern that Google was stifling competition. For all its PR and public policy behind encouraging entrepreneurs, it seems Google’s practices are seen by some as harmful to the innovation that is the oxygen of development and competition on the Internet. The letter calls out comments from Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp!, and Jeffrey Katz, CEO of Nextag – both erstwhile Google partners, that suggests they would not be given the chance to exist in the environment Google has now created:
“Indeed, both CEOs testified that they would not attempt to launch their companies today given Google’s current practices, raising serious concerns about the impact of these practices on innovation.”
At a time when a number of jurisdictions are engaged in, or considering investigations into Google’s abuse of its market position, or related topics, this letter and pleas to the FTC is clearly a significant development that will help to assure regulators that Google does have a case to answer, and that its practices have attracted the attention of their colleagues and peers around the world.
ICOMP echoes the penultimate paragraph of the letter:
“It is important to note that the concerns raised in this letter are not an effort to protect any specific competitor. Rather, our interest is to ensure robust competition in this vital market. We recognize that the internet is fast evolving and subject to rapid technological change. We are motivated by a strong desire to protect the Internet’s openness, competitiveness and capacity for innovation.”
This closely mirrors our own principles and we welcome the Senator’s drive to ensure that they are respected by all parties.
The ICOMP Secretariat