The U.S. Justice Department is paying close attention to the Internet search industry now dominated by Internet giant, Google, according to Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney.
Varney, the nation’s top trustbuster, gave the keynote speech last week to the American Antitrust Institute’s 11th Annual Convention in Washington, DC. I was there and took the opportunity to ask her what government policy should be if online search naturally tends to become a monopoly.
I believe it does and, moreover, Google now has one.
I wanted to know if the antitrust laws were sufficient or if some additional regulation was necessary to deal with the situation.
Varney responded that the DOJ is very familiar with the search industry and is watching it closely. She noted that the department blocked a proposed deal between Google and Yahoo! on antitrust grounds, but did approve the more recent Microsoft-Yahoo! arrangement.
She indicated the department is continuing to watch the search industry (that means Google) closely. It has also opposed the proposed Google Books class action settlement.
Being a monopoly is not in itself against the law if the monopoly position developed naturally. The problem comes if a company uses its monopoly power in an unfair way toward competitors.
Inside Google’s recent study found evidence that is exactly what Google has been doing since it launched Universal Search in 2007.
Varney played her cards close to her vest as you’d expect in a public forum. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks the DOJ’s watching may well become acting sooner rather than later.