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FTC Subpoenas Apple As Part Of Google Antitrust Investigation

Commision questions how Apple decided on preferred search engine for iPhone and iPad

Apple has been subpoenaed as part of the US Federal Trade Commission’s ongoing antitrust investigation into Google’s search business.

The US agency is asking for relevant documents and agreements to help establish how Google became the default search engine ahead of Yahoo and Bing on iPhones and iPads, Bloomberg reports.

Default search

According to an unnamed source, the FTC has also sent subpoenas to other handset makers and wireless carriers, though Apple is the only company explicitly mentioned so far.

Allen Grunes, a lawyer at Washington-based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, told Bloomberg that the FTC will want to see whether Google is abusing its dominant position in Internet search to boost advertising revenue and promote its own products.

“As mobile search gets more widespread, the default setting becomes more significant,” Grunes said.

Microsoft has attacked Google’s prevalence as the search engine of choice for many mobile products as being anti-competitive. Given that ComScore figures report that Google currently possesses 66 percent of the US desktop search market and 75 percent of the US mobile market, Microsoft’s complaints are perhaps not unfounded.

A Macquarie Capital report earlier this month revealed that Google earned $1.3 billion (£828m) from search revenue on iPhones and iPads. The report also stated that Google paid Apple $1 billion (£636m) to keep the former’s search engine as the default on the latter’s devices. It is important to note that consumers do have the option to switch the default to Yahoo or Bing but the fact that Google is the preset is the concerning part for the FTC.

The agency began its antitrust investigation into Google last summer and earlier this year expanded the enquiry by looking at the search giant’s Social Search function. A similar investigation is also being conducted in Europe by the EC.

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