States target Google in possible antitrust probe

The Internet search giant is facing new possible charges – antitrust probes from officials in Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

State officials are reviewing Google’s business practices to determine whether or not an antitrust probe will prove necessary.

Ohio is “evaluating the facts to determine if it’s something we want to review,” explained Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

In Wisconsin, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is investigating Google’s bid to buy ITA Software Inc. The same bid is being reviewed by the US Justice Department.

As Google grows it faces increased antitrust challenges. Regulators in Texas, where the first review of Microsoft began in 1997, are now also looking into a possible Google probe.

Google acknowledged recently it has been entertaining questions from the Texas attorney general’s office as well as the European Commission. Speaking to Bloomberg Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich did not comment on the other states.

The European Commission is currently investigating whether Google alters its search results to benefit its own services and programs.

Google operates in a worldwide market. If they have to change their policies for Texas, that’s a mess,” said Herbert Hovenkamp, a professor of antitrust law at the University of Iowa College of Law in Iowa City, explaining how multiple antitrust decrees could affect the company.

In the 1990’s Microsoft was hit with inquires by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Justice Department and 20 states, Google has avoided reviews on that scale. The Justice Department and FTC have not yet began a broad antitrust inquire and the number of states investigating remains low.

Nevertheless, as Google grows and continues to buy-up smaller companies the possibilities of broader antitrust inquires increases as well. This may only be the beginning.

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