Google Sued by Texas for Documents in Antitrust Probe

Google Inc. was sued by Texas for failing to turn over documents sought by its attorney general in an antitrust probe of the operator of the world’s largest search engine.

Texas sued Google in state court in Austin in an effort to force the Mountain View, California-based company to turn over documents sought by Attorney General Greg Abbott in two so-called civil investigative demands, which are similar to subpoenas.

“While Google has produced a significant volume of documents” in response to Texas’s information demands, it “has withheld a large volume of documents based on assertion of the attorney-client privilege and has claimed that certain documents that were produced are, in fact, privileged, and should be destroyed or returned to Google,” Texas said in a court filing.

Google is already the subject of antitrust probes by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Union. Texas said it’s seeking a court order compelling Google to turn over all documents that aren’t subject to attorney-client privilege.

The company disclosed on Sept. 3, 2010, that Abbott was probing whether it has violated antitrust laws.

“The Attorney General’s Office is investigating whether Google has used its monopoly power in general Internet search to foreclose competition from rival ‘vertical search’ websites that specialize in areas such as shopping, local businesses and travel,” Texas said in its June 12 filing.

‘Preferential Placement’

The conduct under investigation includes alleged “preferential placement of Google vertical search services, demotion of rivals in Google’s search results rankings and the unauthorized use of user reviews, star ratings and other content that Google scrapes from competing vertical search sites,” Texas said in the filing.

Texas said it “may bring an enforcement action against Google” for violating state and federal antitrust laws and in order to finish its investigation it needs to have the documents it has asked for.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said June 6 that he expects to wrap up his agency’s investigation of Google before the end of the year.

The case is Texas v. Google Inc., D-1-GV-12-000887, District Court of Travis County, Texas (Austin).

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