Google Crowned Miss Antitrust 2007
Google appears well on its way to displacing Microsoft as the focus of the antitrust community’s attentions. A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee has opened a preliminary antitrust investigation into Google’s planned $3.1 billion purchase of the online advertising company DoubleClick. This just 10 days after the Federal Trade Commission–which is also investigating the acquisition–approved Microsoft’s $6 billion bid to acquire aQuantive, an Internet ad company whose Atlas unit competes with DoubleClick.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, announced the inquiry in a letter to the FTC. “There is widespread concern about the proposed merger between Google and DoubleClick that the Federal Trade Commission currently is reviewing,” Rush wrote. “Concerns have focused not only on the implications for competition–in online advertising and other possibly affected markets–but also on the potentially enormous impact on consumer privacy. Consumer groups in the United States and Europe as well as the European Commission’s Article 29 Data Protection Working Party have expressed growing alarm over the implications for consumer privacy from the practices of these companies, especially if they combine.”
Sounds heavy. And it is. Certainly being called to testify before House and Senate subcommittees about an acquisition that is already facing scrutiny from U.S. antitrust regulators is no walk in the park. How will Google convince legislators that its proposed acquisition of DoubleClick–which some estimate would give it control of 78% of the advertising tools available to publishers and 45% of those available to advertisers–won’t harm competition? That “you can make money without doing evil” refrain only goes so far, you know.