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Silicon Valley reps urge FTC caution on Google

Two Democratic representatives from the heart of California's Silicon Valley sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz on Monday cautioning the agency against assuming a broad grant of authority in pursuing a possible antitrust case against Google.

Anna Eshoo, the senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and Zoe Lofgren, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, wrote that they were concerned that any case brought under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which gives the agency authority over unfair competition, would constitute a “massive expansion of FTC jurisdiction,” and would “likely have negative implications for our nation’s economy.”

Google is headquartered in Eshoo's district. Lofgren represents a large swath of nearby San Jose.

The FTC is investigating several complaints against Google, involving the question of whether it is using its dominance in Internet search to promote its own offerings in maps, travel, e-commerce, and entertainment information, at the expense of rivals. The investigation broadly aligns with an antitrust probe by the European Union. The EU has publicly outlined its case against Google, and is negotiating with the company over possible remedies. Details of the FTC case have emerged only in press reports.

Eshoo and Lofgren in their letter criticized recent leaks of details from an internal FTC report, writing that such disclousure is “irresponsible and potentially compromises an investigation that has yet to be voted on by the full Commission.”

To date, Google has not offered substantive comment on either probe, except to say that it would answer any questions regulators might have.

This isn’t the first time Leibowitz has gotten an earful from a member of Congress about the Google investigation. In an October letter, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., urged Leibowitz to “remain focused on addressing concrete consumer harms” while considering the economic impact of enforcement decisions. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., took aim at the FTC investigation in a letter, wondering “why the FTC should be focusing on a product that consumers seem very happy with, search engines.” 

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