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Google’s Practices Need U.S. Antitrust Review, Senators Say

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc.’s business practices, including allegations the company favors its own services in Internet searches, raise concerns about squelching competition that need to be reviewed by U.S. regulators, two lawmakers said.

The Federal Trade Commission should determine whether Google has violated antitrust law or hurt consumers, said Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, the panel’s senior Republican, in a letter today to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

The FTC this year began an investigation of Mountain View, California-based Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine. The FTC is examining whether Google unfairly ranks search results and is using its control of the Android mobile operating system to discourage smartphone makers from using rivals’ applications and services, a person familiar with the matter said in August.

Google’s practices “warrant a thorough investigation by the FTC,” the senators wrote in the letter released today. “A key question is whether Google is using its market power to steer users to its own web products or secondary services and discriminating against other websites with which it competes.”

The lawmakers’ letter took no position on the legality of Google’s practices.

Reserving Judgment

“We appreciate that the committee reserved judgment as we continue to cooperate with the FTC,” said Adam Kovacevich, a Google spokesman, in an e-mail. “We are committed to competing fairly on the Internet’s level playing field.”

Cecelia Prewett, an FTC spokeswoman, said in an e-mail the agency had received the letter, declining to comment further.

At an event hosted by Mexico’s consumer-protection agency in Mexico City, Leibowitz declined to give specifics of the probe.

“All I can say is that we are doing an investigation of Google and that we’re collecting documents and asking questions, and it involves both our competition and consumer protection components of our agency,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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