Members of Congress are ratcheting up their concerns about Google’s behavior in the marketplace. On March 11, Senator Michael S. Lee (R-Utah)issued a media release calling for antitrust oversight hearings on the Internet giant. In his statement, Senator Lee said: “Google’s position as the preeminent search engine may be abused so as to disadvantage competing vertical search sites to the detriment of advertisers and internet users.”
Senator Lee also sent a letter to Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), Chairman of the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, applauding him for his focus on Google and to let him know he looks forward to oversight hearings to determine whether the company is harming competition.
Certainly, America needs a fair and level playing field for small and large businesses alike and I applaud Senator Lee for outlining the issue is a reasoned and easy to understand manner. Over the past few years small businesses have expressed growing concern about Google, particularly in regard to Google’s growing market dominance and advertising practices. Small businesses have grown more dependent on consumers finding them on the Internet, and if the practices of one dominant player threatens their online presence this can be devastating.
While the tension between Google and the small business community has been growing for some time, Google's proposed acquisition of ITA has shed new light on the concerns of entrepreneurs. Google already controls a large share of travel searches today and they would have the power to eliminate competition with an acquisition of ITA.
Senator Lee is a dynamic new member of the Senate with an impressive background in legal, constitutional and technology issues. His call for greater scrutiny of Google, and his point that increased antitrust scrutiny now will decrease the need for greater regulation down the road, should be heeded.
“Vigorous antitrust enforcement is almost always preferable to a system of government regulations, which will inevitably be more costly and less efficient than a free market unencumbered by anticompetitive restrictions,” wrote Senator Lee in his letter to Chairman Kohl.
As we pointed out in a letter to members of Congress last month, "Because Google dominates and limits competition in search and search advertising, small businesses are at the mercy of this single company's business practices. Google already dominates search and search advertising with well above 70% of the search market and it already has 30% of all travel searches -- the most of any single provider." We are very pleased to see Senator Lee take up this cause.
President & CEO