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Tipsheet

Sen. Hatch Calls on FTC to Investigate Google

Outgoing Senate Finance Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wrote a letter Thursday to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking that they open an investigation into "the competitive effects of Google’s conduct in search and digital advertising.”

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Hatch expressed concern about reports that Google has been restricting its competition’s advertising, removing businesses that it disagrees with from its platforms, and giving third-party app developers access to the content of emails.

He also cited a 60 Minutes report covering allegations that Google engaged in anticompetitive conduct.

“Needless to say, I found these reports disquieting,” Hatch said. “Although these reports concern different aspects of Google’s business, many relate to the company’s dominant position in search and accumulating vast amounts of personal data.”

He noted that there have been “important developments” since the FTC’s 2013 probe of Google’s search practices, citing a 2015 Wall Street Journal report.

“The Wall Street Journal revealed some details of an FTC Bureau of Competition staff report from August 2012 (before the then-Commissioners of the FTC concluded the investigation into Google),” he wrote. “That staff report recommended that the FTC pursue an antitrust action against Google because of some of its search practices.”

“The report found that it was a ‘close question’ as to whether Google violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act by ‘preferencing’ its own ‘vertical content over that of rivals, while simultaneously demoting rival vertical websites,’” Hatch pointed out. “Ultimately, the staff recommended against pursuing a complaint on that point. The report did, however, recommend action against Google on other issues that the report found to be anticompetitive. Google resolved the issue by promising in a December 27, 2012 letter that it would take certain actions for five years to address those concerns. That time period has now passed.”

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Hatch’s letter comes shortly after President Trump accused Google in a tweet of shutting out search results about conservative media.

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