WASHINGTON — Google’s rivals have again prompted antitrust investigators at the Federal Trade Commission to examine the company’s business practices, and staff members have begun a preliminary look at whether Google abuses its market dominance in online display advertising, like the banner ads on Web pages.
People who have been contacted in connection with the inquiry said that the FTC had begun asking questions about Google’s practices, specifically whether the company was bundling advertising services together in a way that prohibited rivals from competing for the business of advertisers.
The FTC said in December 2007 that it would monitor Google’s practices in that area. At that time the FTC found that Google’s proposed acquisition of DoubleClick was “unlikely to substantially lessen competition.”
“We want to be clear, however,” the FTC wrote at the time, “that we will continue to watch these markets.”
Officials at the FTC and Google declined to comment Friday on the possibility of a new inquiry, which was first reported Thursday evening by Bloomberg News. One person close to the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is in its early stages, said the FTC had not yet contacted Google about a new antitrust inquiry.