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US Senators Think Google Probe Should Include Search

 |  March 10, 2020

The US Justice Department should expand its antitrust investigation of Alphabet Inc.’s Google to include the internet giant’s conduct in online search, in addition to digitial advertising, two senators said.

According to Bloomberg, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley and Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said Tuesday that the department’s inquiry appears to be too narrowly focused on advertising even though the company is a monopoly in internet search, “where the opportunities for anticompetitive conduct are substantial.”

“It is critical to remember that the company’s primary function is supplying a search engine to users,” they wrote to Attorney General William Barr. “Narrowing the investigation’s focus such that Google’s anti-competitive practices to dominate the online search market is not captured does a grave disservice to consumers.”

The senators’ plea comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday to examine claims that internet platforms like Google favor their own services over those of rivals. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said she was introducing legislation that would toughen antitrust enforcement by putting the burden on companies to justify conduct that thwarts rivals.

“All of us hear stories about how these companies are leveraging their scale or financial resources with unparalled access to users’ data and market power,” she said.

Executives of Yelp Inc., which has long complained that Google is thwarting competition in the market for local searches, told the senators on Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee that reports the Justice Department is focused on Google’s conduct in the digital advertising market are a concern.

“Making the focus too narrow would be a grave mistake,” Luther Lowe, Yelp’s senior vice president for public policy, said in written testimony. “You can’t look at Standard Oil without looking at oil. You cannot investigate Google without looking at search.”