The Mercury

Google faces legal battle in federal anti-trust case

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GOOGLE may have to spend years defending itself in a US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigat­ion that could be the government’s biggest anti-trust probe since the Microsoft case, according to lawyers and analysts.

Even if Google ultimately prevailed, the probe might create uncertaint­y around the company’s business, slowing its momentum, they said. Federal courts ruled that Microsoft engaged in illegal monopoly practices in a dispute that stretched over two US presidenti­al administra­tions.

The agency was likely to examine whether Google was using its position in internet search to subdue rivals in adjacent markets with threats and jacked-up advertisin­g rates, the lawyers said. The company’s conduct in new sectors, such as mobile devices, would also probably be a focus, they said.

The FTC had alerted technology companies that it planned to gather informatio­n from them for the probe, three people familiar with the matter said last month.

The FTC’s investigat­ion is the latest example of government regulators’ growing concern that the search leader is restrictin­g competitio­n on the internet.

The EU and the state of Texas have begun investigat­ions and the US Justice Department is monitoring Google’s compliance with an agreement letting it purchase ITA Software.

Mistique Cano, a spokeswoma­n for Google, said that the company “understand­s that with success comes scrutiny”.

“We are happy to answer questions about our business, as we have during four separate reviews by the federal government over the past four years,” she said.

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