Google may face antitrust probes in Ohio, Wisconsin

Attorneys general in the two states are considering whether to launch antitrust investigations into the search giant's business practices, according to a story from Bloomberg.

Google could find itself the target of two separate antitrust probes launched by Ohio and Wisconsin, according to a story published today by Bloomberg.

Concerned over the search giant's business practices, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is "evaluating the facts to determine if it's something we want to review," his spokesman Dan Tierney told Bloomberg.

Tierney confirmed the information to CNET, saying that the attorney general's office is "reviewing the facts regarding the matter to determine if there's any action that needs to be taken."

Asked if the attorney general is looking into a specific incident on Google's part that might trigger an investigation, Tierney said that he didn't have any information exactly as to what the office is reviewing but said that "there's a lot of information going on in various states, so we're just reviewing what's out there to determine if we need to take action under Ohio law."

The Ohio attorney general could also be contemplating a probe in response to a lawsuit filed against Google last year by Columbus, Ohio-based company MyTriggers. MyTriggers, which runs an online shopping comparison search engine, has charged that Google manipulated search results to penalize it, according to a copy of the lawsuit (PDF) posted by the site Googleopoly.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is said to be evaluating an investigation over Google's bid to buy travel software company ITA , a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. A phone call to the Wisconsin attorney general's office for confirmation was not returned.

Antitrust probes from Ohio and Wisconsin would join one already in the works from Texas. In September, the Texas attorney general's office launched its own investigation over charges that Google manipulated its search results to penalize "vertical" search engines, which often compete with Google by offering their own specialized searches.

The Texas probe followed an earlier and similar investigation opened by the European Commission as well as the antitrust lawsuits filed by MyTriggers and another company called TradeComet.

Google's intention to buy ITA Software has raised concerns among rival search engine companies such as Microsoft and online travel companies , including Expedia and Travelocity. They have all argued against the deal, saying that it would give the search giant a monopoly over online travel searches.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been reviewing the acquisition for the past eight months since shortly after it was announced. But sources recently told AllThingsD that Justice Department approval could be imminent, assuming certain conditions are met.

A Google spokesman told CNET in an e-mail today that the company would not comment on the Bloomberg report. In the past, Google has said that the deal would not "change existing market shares" and that it plans to "honor all existing agreements" that ITA Software has set up with travel search companies.

 

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