Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt began testifying before a U.S. Judiciary Subcommittee Wednesday over the company's business practices, striking a conciliatory tone with skeptical lawmakers.
What we ask is that you help us ensure that the Federal Trade Commission's inquiry remains a focused and fair process, so that we can continue creating jobs and building products that delight our users, Schmidt said in his opening remarks, according to Politico.
Google has been under fire recently from using their dominant position in the search market to allegedly boost other Google-owned assets. Given that Google controls nearly two-thirds of the Internet search market, some lawmakers are concerned that the Internet giant's policy to place Google-owned properties to the top of the search results stifles competition.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the hearing comes as the FTC has begun looking into whether Google is abusing their market power. The Journal notes that although the company has faced antitrust allegations in the past, this is the first time they have had to face questions concerning competitive practices.
This has transformed Google from a mere search engine into a major Internet conglomerate, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), the subcommittee chairman, said in the hearing. He then added, Is it possible for Google to be both an unbiased search engine, and own a vast portfolio of online services?
Still, Kohl said he would keep an open mind on the issue, Politico notes.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), the ranking member of the subcommittee, pointed out complaints of Google, most notably competitor placement in search results.
Given its significant ability to steer e-commerce and the flow of online information, Google is in a position to help determine who will succeed and who will fail, Lee said (R-UT).
Schmidt testified by himself in the hearing, which some believe was a strategy in order to avoid a Bill Gates scenario. Back in the late 1990s, when Microsoft was criticized for what opponents believed was the monopolization of the software market, Gates gave Senate testimony along with competitors who criticized Microsoft, making for awkward camera moments.
Other executives will testify separately during the hearings, and written remarks have already been submitted, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Today, Google doesn't play fair, writes Jeffrey Katz, CEO of Nextag. Google rigs its results, biasing in favor of Google Shopping and against competitors like us. As a result, Nextag's access is more and more discriminated against. Not because our service has gotten worse...but because we compete with Google where it matters most, for very lucrative shopping users.