Google Faces Texas Antitrust Probe

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott hails the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld the right to display the Ten Commandments on government land, at the Capitol grounds in Austin, Texas, June 27, 2005. The top court said the 6-foot-granite monument - one of 17 historical displays on the 22-acre lot - is a legitimate tribute to the nation's legal and religious history.

Google will face an antitrust investigation in Texas over charges that it manipulated search results, in what appears to a similar case to one pending in Europe.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
AP Photo/Harry Cabluck

Google confirmed an earlier report by Search Engine Land Friday after the close of the stock market that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has contacted it in connection with an "antitrust review" of Google's business practices. Earlier this year, European regulators opened an investigation regarding claims by a Microsoft-backed price-comparison site called Foundem that Google was downranking Foundem in hopes of putting the site out of business.

"We look forward to answering their questions because we're confident that Google operates in the best interests of our users," Google's Don Harrison said in a blog post. A representative for Abbott's office confirmed it has opened an antitrust investigation into Google's business practices but would not provide any further details on that investigation.

Google said that Texas had asked it specifically about Foundem's complaints as well as those of TradeComet and myTriggers, two U.S.-based companies who have filed their own antitrust suits against Google for allegedly manipulating search results to harm the two companies. TradeComet's case was dismissed on a technicality--incorrect venue--while a case involving myTriggers is pending in Ohio.

Google's rise to the top of the Internet has not gone unnoticed by regulators around the world. The company routinely faces scrutiny over its penchant for acquisitions, evidenced by Federal Trade Commission reviews of AdMob earlier this year and a currently underway review involving travel software company ITA Software.

Microsoft, itself a target of antitrust scrutiny a decade ago, has acknowledged that it has complained to federal regulators about Google's business practices, but denies it is orchestrating any legal campaign against the company. Google pointed out in its blog post Friday that Foundem is part of an organization with Microsoft called the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace and that lawyers who have worked with Microsoft have represented TradeComet and myTriggers.

  • Tom Krazit

    Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.