Is Google in Texas-Size Trouble? Texas Launches Probe into Possible Google Monopoly

Before Google could complete the purchase of Admob, the mobile advertising company, the United States’ Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated whether or not the acquisition would stir up 

monopoly issues because of Google’s dominance in the search market.  While Google holds around two-thirds of the market, the FTC cleared the sale because of Apple’s predicted launch of iAd, an application very similar to Admob.

Google is no stranger to anti-trust issues, but they face renewed criticism in Texas, as regulators investigate whether the search giant manipulates search engine results pages (SERP).

The investigation, headed by Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, centers around charges from two US companies and one UK company that Google downgraded their search rankings.  Foundem, SourceTool/Tradecomet, and myTriggers, which are price comparison or vertical search sites, have accused Google of manipulating their PPC ads in favor of higher rankings for Google’s own ads.

Google acknowledged that they had been approached by Abbott’s office with the charges. Don Harrison, Google’s deputy general counsel, shot back, saying, “The important thing to remember is that we built Google to provide the most useful, relevant search results and ads for users.  Given that not every website can be at the top of the results, or even appear on the first page of our results, it’s unsurprising that some less relevant, lower quality websites will be unhappy with their ranking.”

Google’s camp also points out that each of the three companies mentioned in the charges is, in some way, connected to rival Microsoft.  Though Microsoft denies any involvement or any legal maneuvering in this matter, Google will certainly continue to point this out, as well as the “less relevant, lower quality” of the sites that are complaining. For its part, Foundem says:

“Given the absence of healthy competition among search engines and the extraordinary control that search wields over the digital economy, there is an urgent need to address the principles of search neutrality through substantive discussion, anti-trust enforcement, and careful regulation. Google’s diversionary ‘straw man’ tactics must not be allowed to stand as a substitute for informed debate.”

The investigation into these charges continues in the US, while Google faces questions in the EU for similar practices.

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