Lobby Aimed at Google’s Dominance Broadens Membership

New ad campaign attacks search firm's control on the Web

More Internet companies, accusing Google of anti-competitive business practices in search, are seeking allies as they step up their lobbying in Washington.

FairSearch.org, a group formed by travel sites to protect their interests in the wake of Google's acquisition of ITA, is broadening its membership to include an ad network and shopping platforms.

Among the new Internet companies joining FairSearch.org is syndicated search network adMarketplace, an ad net that delivers pay-per-click inventory to marketers; and two shopping websites, Twenga, a Paris-based online shopping platform, and ShopCity.com, which provides online marketing tools for businesses.

The group also launched this week an ad campaign highlighting Google's hold on the business. Mimicking the look and style of Google's new "Good to Know" Web safety campaign, FairSearch.org's series of ads is aimed at letting consumers know just how much control Google has over what is online. The campaign is running in print and online in Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley.

"If Google's sharing things that are 'good to know,' are there things that Google doesn't want us to know?" the campaign asks.

Google's search dominance, both in the U.S. and globally, has drawn increased scrutiny in Washington and among regulators. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Google manipulates its search results in order to favor its own products and services. Google's search practices were also questioned last year in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

"Google has a monopoly on the search business, but the question is how they leverage the search business to monopolize their other businesses," said James Hill, CEO of adMarketplace, whose clients include some of the nation's largest digital and media buying shops such as Digitas and OMD. "We have agencies that are dying for an alternative."

Hill complained that Google employs a number of business practices that squeeze out competitors, such as paying publishers 80 percent of revenue share per click compared to the market standard of 60 percent, and making it difficult for advertisers to work with other networks. "Google can artificially raise rates. A level playing field does not exist," Hill said.

Many of the companies joining FairSearch.org such as ShopCity.com have already filed complaints with the FTC. Twenga last week filed a complaint with the European Commission, which is also looking into Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility.

Update: A Google spokesperson responded by sending a link to a website page, "Facts about Google and competition."