Hatch Presses FTC Chairman On Google’s Competitive Impacts

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Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force, asked Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons to take a fresh look at the competitive impacts of Google’s search and digital advertising practices.

In an August 30 letter, Sen. Hatch told Simons he was “concerned” about various news reports regarding “purportedly anticompetitive conduct by the company involving its search practices,” and others regarding data collection and privacy practices related to the use of Gmail user data. “Although these reports concern different aspects of Google’s business, many relate to the company’s dominant position in search and accumulating vast amounts of personal data,” the senator said.

“That is why I also write to urge the Federal Trade Commission to reconsider the competitive effects of Google’s conduct in search and digital advertising,” he said.

“As I explained in a speech last year, the procompetitive aspects of conduct should be weighed against its anticompetitive potential. I have no doubt that the career staff, you, and the other new FTC commissioners can and will do that here. In the past, Google has offered arguments that its conduct is procompetitive. And Google does have a long track record of providing valuable services and making important, innovative contributions. But much has changed since the FTC last looked at Google’s conduct regarding search and digital advertising,” he said.

Sen. Hatch recounted several previous FTC investigations into Google’s business practices since 2010, and noted market changes that have occurred in the intervening years, including a broad shift to mobile platforms. Hatch also cited Simons’ support during his confirmation hearing to head the FTC “for creating a program to look back at previous [agency] decisions on mergers and whether those choices had been effective.”

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