Where is the FTC Digging Up Dirt on Google?

The Federal Trade Commission is stepping up its efforts to investigate Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) for allegations that the company uses its search engine to promote its own services over those of competitors. Antitrust regulators have asked eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and Yelp (NYSE:YELP), among others, to examples of and provide information on acts of possible unfair competition, according to Bloomberg. Shopping websites NexTag and TheFind were also among the dozen to receive the request from FTC.

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The commission, which started the probe a year ago, also wants to know if Google sells its rivals prime advertising space on search results pages. Yelp has also accused Google of using other sites’ content without permission in its search results, another charge being investigated.

Google had made changes to its mathematical formulas that rank search results in February 2011, which led to complaints from many websites that they lost almost half of their user traffic.

The FTC had previously asked for documentation from Google and companies like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). It also hired antitrust litigator Beth Wilkinson last month, which is being seen by some as an indication that it is preparing to sue Google.

On Monday, the European Commission had given Google an ultimatum to make changes in its business policies or face formal antitrust charges. The commission has the power to directly order business changes and set fines of more than $1 billion without a lawsuit or prior authority of a judge.

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