Google chairman Eric Schmidt admitted to a US Senate antitrust panel that the search giant is “in [the] area” of a monopoly at a hearing yesterday, saying it had learned from Microsoft’s antitrust mistakes and insisting that the two company’s situations were very different. “We get the lessons of our corporate predecessors” Schmidt told senators, referring to previous antitrust complaints against rivals like Microsoft, but maintained that “one company’s past need not be another company’s future.” His argument was in sharp contrast to claims by Yelp and others, who accuse Google of squeezing out competition by prioritizing its own services in search results.
“But do you recognize that in the words that are used and antitrust kind of oversight, your market share constitutes monopoly, dominant — special power dominant for a monopoly firm. You recognize you’re in that area?” Senator Herb Kohl (D.) asked Schmidt during the chairman’s testinomy, Business Insider reports. “I would agree, sir, that we’re in that area” Schmidt concurred, though pointed out that “I’m not a lawyer, but my understanding of monopoly findings is this is a judicial process.”
As Schmidt highlights, until there’s a legal ruling specifically citing Google as a monopoly, the search company is not subject to antitrust laws. The FTC is currently investigating Google, along with other European agencies, but no final decision has been made. According to the chairman, Google expects that the Senate hearing would “serve as an additional guide for them” but pointed out that, with those investigations yet to release any conclusions, “we wouldn’t take action based on this hearing.”
That includes resisting any pressure to change how it presents search results. Schmidt pointed out to reporters following the hearing that the internet landscape is very different today than when Microsoft fell foul of antitrust laws in the late 1990s, Politico reports. “The open internet allows you to go directly to [companies testifying against Google]” he insisted, arguing that users have plenty of choice – and can freely select – services not provided by Google. “There are many, many checks on Google’s behavior,” he concluded, “consumers can move so quickly.”