Sens. Herb Kohl and Mike Lee call for Google antitrust probe
The chairman and top Republican on the Senate antitrust subcommittee have asked regulators to investigate Google Inc.'s search practices, saying they were concerned the company was biasing results to favor its own products.
The senators -- panel Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) -- sent a letter Monday to the Federal Trade Commission, which already is conducting a broad antitrust investigation into Google's business practices, including search and advertising.
Kohl and Lee questioned Google Chairman Eric Schmidt at a contentious hearing in September. Schmidt's answers, along with testimony from two Google competitors, raised questions that should be explored by regulators, the senators said in their letter to FTC Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz.
"We believe these allegations regarding Google's search engine practices raise important competition issues," wrote Kohl and Lee, whose committee has been conducting its own review of Google. "We are committed to ensuring that consumers benefit from robust competition in online search and that the Internet remains the source of much free-market innovation."
At the hearing, senators heard complaints from the chief executives of local review site Yelp and online product comparison site Nextag that Google abuses its search engine dominance at the expense of smaller competitors.
Asked by Lee during the hearing whether Google "cooked" its search results on three product-comparison websites to favor Google Shopping results, Schmidt responded, "Senator … I can assure you we have not cooked anything."
Schmidt strongly denied the accusations. But Kohl and Lee said Monday that there were enough questions to warrant an FTC review.
-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington
Photo: Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt takes the oath at a Senate antitrust subcommittee hearing in September. Credit: Associated Press.