The top leaders of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee called on the Federal Trade Commission Monday to investigate whether Google's moves to expand its services beyond search violate antitrust law.
In a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and ranking member Mike Lee, R-Utah, raised many of the issues that were highlighted during a hearing before their panel in September that featured Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt as well as critics of the online giant.
Kohl and Lee noted that Google's move into secondary services beyond just search results such as maps, travel services and finance raises questions about its role as an unbiased provider of Internet search results. Google rivals argue that the company's search results are biased in favor of Google's own products and services.
"We believe these allegations regarding Google's search engine practices raise important competition issues," the senators wrote. "We therefore urge the FTC to investigate the issues raised at our subcommittee hearing to determine whether Google's actions violate antitrust law or substantially harm consumers or competition in this vital industry."
Despite their call for an investigation, the senators said they are not taking a position on whether Google's practices are legal or not.
The FTC has acknowledged it is currently conducting an antitrust investigation of Google but has not commented on the areas it is examining.
In a statement, Google said, "These letters are customary, and we appreciate that the committee reserved judgment as we continue to cooperate with the FTC. We are committed to competing fairly on the Internet's level playing field."
The company's critics, meanwhile, applauded the senators' letter. "This bipartisan letter validates the many concerns held by the members of FairSearch.org and thousands of other companies about the impact Google's anti-competitive behavior has on innovation and consumer choice," FairSearch.org, a coalition made up of Microsoft, Expedia, Kayak and other Google rivals, said in a statement.