After months of a rumors about government action against Google, there are reports that government agencies are begining to take action. On June 24, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FTC is primed to serve subpoenas on the internet giant.
A July 19, 2011 Bloomberg article states that DOJ and FTC (the two federal agencies charged with enforcing antitrust law) have agreed to divide responsibilities related to Google. The DOJ will review any planned acquisitions by Google for their possible effects on competition and the FTC will conduct a broad investigation of the company's dominance of Internet search. The European Union and various state Attorney Generals are conducting their own independent investigations.
Google's critics claim that it unfairly utilizes its search engine to advance its own services over those of rival providers. For example, the FairSearch Coalition, an organization of Google competitors, asserts that “Google engages in anti-competitive behavior across many vertical categories of search that harms consumers by restricting the ability of other companies to compete to put the best products in front of Internet users, who should be allowed to pick winners and losers online, not Google.” Google maintains that users can easily locate other service providers on its website, which was “built for users, not websites.”
Policy watchers believe the FTC probe could be the most important antitrust investigation since the Justice Department’s investigation of Microsoft in the 1990s. Since then, however, courts have significantly narrowed the scope of antitrust law. See, e.g., Pac. Bell Tel. Co. v. linkLine Commc’ns, Inc., 555 U.S. 438 (2009); Fed. Trade Comm’n v. Rambus Inc., 522 F.3d 456 (D.C. Cir. 2008), cert. denied 129 U.S. 1318 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007); Leegin Creative Leather Products, Inc. v. PSKS, Inc., 551 U.S. 877 (2007). Therefore, it will be very interesting to see how the Google investigation is resolved.