Google Antitrust Probe Widens To Include Search, Android

The antitrust investigation into Google will be expanded to include the tech giant's search and Android businesses.

In September, 50 attorneys general announced that they were launching an investigation into whether Google has abused its position in the online advertising market. The probe is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and involves 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Both Alabama and California are not participating in the probe.

“What we have all learned is that, while many consumers believe that the internet is free, certainly we know from Google’s profits … that the internet is not free. This is a company that dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet,” Paxton said at the time.

Now, sources have told CNBC that the attorneys general are in the process of preparing subpoenas — known as civil investigative demands (CIDs) — for the new inquiries, though they might not be filed immediately. The CIDs will be used to request materials, including emails and strategy documents, in an effort to find proof of anticompetitive behavior.

A spokesman for Paxton referred CNBC to a comment about the probe last month: “At this point, the multistate investigation is focused solely on online advertising. However, as always, the facts we discover as the investigation progresses will determine where the investigation ultimately leads.”

Paxton reportedly voiced his support recently for expanding the investigation into Google’s search and Android businesses, and for certain states to investigate the search and Android businesses separately. The source noted that the new direction is proof that the attorneys general intend to strongly scrutinize Google.

The company, which declined to comment on this latest report, is also dealing with two other investigations — one with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) looking into the company’s business practices, and one by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee. In addition, the DOJ’s top antitrust official said last week that the government is working to identify and pursue cases of anticompetitive behavior from Big Tech firms.

“Antitrust enforcers cannot turn a blind eye to the serious competition questions that digital markets have raised,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim.



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