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FTC takes new swipe at Google

Latest antitrust probe covers manipulation of digital advertising market

Google is accused of using its ad placement tools to stifle competition.
Google is accused of using its ad placement tools to stifle competition.

Google Inc is under fresh investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning allegations of stifling competition in the online display-advertising market, Bloomberg reported yesterday.

The latest antitrust probe follows the much criticised 20-month FTC investigation into Google's search business, which closed in January with little resolution. The new probe will review Google's practices in regard to digital advertising, in particular whether the Internet giant used its dominance in the segment to push its own services.

At the close of the FTC inquiry into Google's search policies, the company agreed to change some other business habits, including those related to misusing patents to hamper competition in the smartphone industry.

On line advertising is estimated to be a $17.7 billion industry. As part of the January settlement Google had pledged to stop restricting use of its online search-advertising platform and allow companies to opt out of search results. News of the settlement prompted statements of disappointment from Google rivals, including Microsoft Corp.

The prime focus of the FTC's latest review will involve the technology used to place advertisements on websites. Google faces allegations of using its tools, including those inherited as part of its 2007 acquisition of DoubleClick Inc, to force companies to purchase a range of Google services, such as a marketplace for the buying and selling of ads and tools for revenue maximisation.  

Google's share of the US display ad market stood at 24% in the first quarter, with rivals Yahoo! Inc and Facebook Inc, each gleaning less than 10%, according to figures from market research company IDC.

Apart from the latest FTC investigation, Google is currently being scrutinised by anti-competition agencies in Canada, the European Union, Argentina and South Korea.