Published: Mon, November 13, 2017
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Missouri attorney general investigating Google

The simmering debate over whether big internet companies are breaking antitrust rules to extend their dominance has a new front - Missouri.

Missouri's attorney general announced Monday that his office is investigating Google for potential violations of the state's consumer-protection and antitrust laws.

When asked whether his bid for national office influenced his decision to go after one of the most influential tech companies in the world, Hawley said, "My decision to pursue Google goes back to my oath of office", to protect the people of Missouri. The investigation will focus on Google's use of data, as well as allegations that it discriminates against competitors in the search results.

Google spokesman Patrick Lenihan in a Monday statement said the company has "strong privacy protections in place" and operates in a "highly competitive" environment.

Lastly, Hawley's office is investigating whether Google has manipulated search results to favor websites owned by Google and to demote websites that compete with Google.

Hawley said he will be specifically looking into if Google has violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and Missouri's antitrust laws. Hawley said the Federal Trade Commission under former President Barack Obama "did not take any enforcement action against Google, did not press this forward and has essentially given them a free pass".

The idea that Google was unfairly suppressing search results for its competitors got scant traction in the US after the FTC concluded in 2013 that the company wasn't trying to stifle competition.

Google has already landed on the bad side of European Union antitrust regulators, receiving a €2.4B fine in June for shopping search practices and facing another fine over its AdSense network. Hawley, a Republican, is seeking to unseat Democrat incumbent Sen.

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