Google Could Be Hit By A New Antitrust Investigation

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Reports say Google has been accused of foul play in the US advertising market

Google could be hit by another antitrust investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), this time into its online advertising business.

Sources close to the matter told Reuters that FTC is looking at Google’s behaviour following the acquisition of ad business Doublecklick in 2007, after receiving complaints from several competitors. However, the probe has not been made official.

The previous antitrust investigation by the FTC concluded Google wasn’t abusing its position in the Internet search market.

Angry whispers

According to Reuters, Google was the biggest player in the US online advertising market in 2012, with a 15.1 percent market share. The company expects to grow the ad business further in the next two years, but its American competitors claim this growth is the result of Google locking its customers into the AdWords platform.

Justice, court, legal © Evlakhov Valeriy Shutterstock 2012According to a second source, Google has not been notified of the investigation.

This is not the first time the search giant has been accused of misconduct. In Europe, competitors (including Microsoft) have been pressuring the European Commission (EC) to file formal antirust charges against Google since November 2010.

Last month, the company offered to clearly label its services in search results, and display links to three rival specialised search services similar to its own, in order to avoid hefty fines. The decision on whether EC will press formal charges will be made later this summer.

In January, the FTC concluded that Google was not manipulating search algorithms to favour its own services over competitors’ offerings. However, the company voluntarily agreed to change some of its business practices related to search and standards-essential patents.

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