Google rivals head to D.C. for antitrust dogpile

Expedia, Nextag and Yelp are in Washington, D.C. to participate in a Senate judiciary antitrust subcommittee hearing about whether or not Google has acted anti-competitively in the market. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman is one of the executives who has been asked to provide testimony during the hearing and he has posted his written testimony on Yelp’s website. “Google is no longer in the business of sending people to the best sources of information on the web,” Stoppelman said. “It now hopes to be a destination site itself for one vertical market after another, including news, shopping, travel and now, local business reviews. It would be one thing if these efforts were conducted on a level playing field, but the reality is they are not.” Read on for more.

Stoppleman explained that Google once agreed to license Yelp’s content, but never did, and still uses Yelp’s results to “prop up its own, less effective product.” Google said it would “cease the practice only if [Yelp] agreed to be removed from Google’s web search index, thereby preventing Yelp from appearing anywhere in Google search results,” Stoppleman’s testimony explained. “Allowing a search engine with monopoly market share to exploit and extend its dominance hampers entrepreneurial activity,” Stoppleman concluded. “They prefer to send consumers to the most profitable sites on the Web: their own,” he added on Wednesday.

Nextag CEO Jeff Ketz’ opinion is similar to Jeremy Stoppelman’s. Katz explained that Google, which he says views Nextag as a threat, only allows his company to purchase and bid on ads that are lower down on the results page than the more prominent top results. “Google is the dominant digital advertising resource in the world, and Nextag is restricted from marketing itself to shoppers about the services we can provide,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “Google rigs its results,” Katz argued on Wednesday. “[It] doesn’t play fair,” he said, according to CNET.

A Google spokesperson explained that Nextag can’t purchase the more prominent ads because it points buyers to other sellers and does not actually sell the products itself. The Federal Trade Commission announced in late July that it would review Google’s business practices and one watchdog group, Fairsearch.org, has accused the search engine of anti-competitive practices.

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