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Mississippi AG Sides With Yelp On Google Antitrust Complaint

The Mississippi attorney general has urged the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate allegations by Yelp against Google.

According to news from Bloomberg Technology, Mississippi’s Democratic attorney general, Jim Hood, sent a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in late October, urging the agency to “take prompt action to investigate” a complaint Yelp filed in September.

Yelp, which compiles user reviews of restaurants and other local businesses, is waging a years-long battle to keep from being overshadowed by Google. In its complaint to the FTC, Yelp said that Google continues to scrape and use its content in violation of commitments it made in 2013 when the agency closed an investigation into its practices.

“The ability to access information about local businesses’ hours, services and customer ratings has become an integral part of the competitive process that allows Mississippi consumers to identify and patronize local businesses that best meet their needs,” Hood wrote to acting FTC chairman Maureen Ohlhausen. “I am deeply troubled by the suggestion that Google is, despite its legally binding prior commitments, continuing to inhibit its competitors in local search.”

Google said in an emailed statement from spokesman Patrick Lenihan that as soon as it heard about Yelp’s claim, “we took immediate steps to look at and address any issue, as we would have had they come to us directly.” He added that Google continues “to stand by our commitments to the FTC.”

This isn’t the first time Hood has called for an investigation of Google. In 2014, he investigated Google and its video sharing site, YouTube, over whether it adequately screened illegal drug advertisements and illicit online videos. Hood also sued Google in January over student privacy, with that case still ongoing in Lowndes County Chancery Court.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said this week that he is investigating whether Google manipulates search results to benefit its own products over its competitors. And in Europe, where antitrust law has been wielded much more aggressively, Google was fined 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) last June, and the European Union is currently investigating Google over its Android mobile platform and its AdSense for Search service.

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