Ohio, Wisconsin considering Google probes

Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 25, 2011, 1:21pm

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (Legal Newsline) -- Search engine giant Google Inc. could be looking at more antitrust probes -- this time in Ohio and Wisconsin.

According to Bloomberg News, Google faces investigation in the two states for its business practices.

Sources connected to the Ohio Attorney General's Office and Wisconsin's Justice Department told Bloomberg on Thursday that they are considering looking into the company's bid to buy ITA Software, Inc.

Last month, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster offered up his help in a U.S. Justice Department investigation of Google and its plan to purchase the software company.

The U.S. Justice Department is trying to decide if it will approve the search engine giant's acquisition of ITA. The company's software provides online flight information. However, its competitors argue Google's purchase could hurt them and consumers.

Koster, in a letter to the head of the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division, wrote, "This transaction causes me concern because of its potential impact on the ability of consumers to search online competitively for competitively priced airline fares."

A Google spokesman has said that the purchase would actually improve Internet travel searches, giving consumers more options.

Google also is under investigation by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Last month, Abbott requested information from the company about its advertising rate formula and search result rankings.

It was reported that Abbott's office asked for the information in a 13-page civil investigative demand dated July 29, 2010 from Kim Van Winkle, assistant attorney general in Texas' antitrust division, to Matthew Bye, a lawyer for the company.

Investigators with Abbott's office are looking for documents that show "manual overriding or altering of" search result rankings.

According to the demand -- which is similar to a subpoena -- Abbott's office also wants documents on rivals Bing and Yahoo! and any complaints about buying an ad on the world's most popular Internet search engine.

In September, the Abbott's office announced it was officially looking into the company's methods for recommending websites. The investigation was spurred by complaints that Google has abused its power as the Internet's most dominant search engine.

Such allegations were levied against the company by UK-based Foundem, New York-based SourceTool and TradeComet, and Ohio-based myTriggers.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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