48 US States Open Google Anti-trust Probe

Senior management at Alphabet and Google now have to contend with another anti-trust investigation, as most US states join forces to investigate the firm.

Last week it was reported that attorney generals from more than 30 US states were readying an anti-trust investigation of Alphabet’s Google unit.

But when the investigation was officially launched on Monday, it was revealed that the attorneys general from 48 US states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were joining forces for the anti-trust probe.

Anti-trust investigation

Texas is leading the investigation, and its attorney general Ken Paxton was quoted by Reuters as saying the probe will focus on Google’s “overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers.”

The fact that most US states have joined the investigation will concern Google management.

Only California (the home state of Google) and Alabama declined to be part of the investigation.

Participating states on Monday asked Google to provide documents on its advertising business, Paxton reportedly said at the announcement in Washington.

Some attorneys general present at the launch described the investigation as “preliminary” and said they expected it would expand to cover other issues, including data privacy.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge reportedly called Google’s search engine a “juggernaut” and argued that a free search sometimes came at the cost of the freedom to choose the best products from the best companies.

“When a company becomes a verb, it may seem as though the states are David taking on Goliath but I am proud to stand tall with my fellow attorneys general,” Rutledge reportedly said.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a dominant player when it’s done fairly,” said Sean Reyes, the Republican attorney general of Utah. He said there is a “presumption” of innocence in such an investigation but still said there is a “pervasiveness” to complaints about Google’s business practices.

Meanwhile it is known that a separate group of eight state attorneys general, led by New York, joined by the District of Columbia, announced last Friday it was investigating Facebook.

Other probes

This potential investigation will join other ongoing probes.

In July this year the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said it would investigate whether “market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.”

That antitrust investigation did not name any particular companies, but it is widely assumed it will include the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon and maybe even Apple.

The FTC is also conducting an investigation of the firms.

It is reported that State attorneys general have fewer resources than federal agencies, but have in the past teamed up to take on giant firms.

Quiz: What do you know about Google?

Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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