House May Conduct Hearings on Google/DoubleClick Deal

Two Committees in the U.S. House of Representatives are mulling hearings on Google’s proposed acquisition of DoubleClick. If placed on the committees’ schedules, the proceedings would follow a hearing already conducted last week by the Senate Judiciary’s Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee.

Sources at the House Energy and Commerce and the House Judiciary Committees indicated separate hearings, or possibly a joint hearing, could take place, but nothing is on the calendar yet.

“The chairman is interested in this issue,” said a House Judiciary Committee spokesperson, regarding Google’s proposed DoubleClick buy. Representative John Conyers of Michigan chairs the committee, as well as the Judiciary’s Antitrust Task Force Subcommittee, the likely forum for any potential hearing on the deal.

Opponents of the acquisition speaking at last week’s Senate hearing characterized Google and DoubleClick as direct competitors that, if connected, would unfairly dominate the online advertising industry. Others sounded alarms over privacy implications of the deal, suggesting the two merged firms would control the largest consumer information database ever known.

“Google will become the overwhelmingly dominant pipeline for all forms of online advertising,” said Microsoft SVP and General Counsel Brad Smith during the Senate hearing. Smith went on to call the proposed deal bad for publishers, advertisers and consumers. Microsoft is among the most vocal rivals of the deal, joining consumer privacy advocates in calling for further investigation of the acquisition, or an end to it all together.

Though the Federal Trade Commission has oversight over the acquisition, congressional hearings could serve to influence the FTC’s decision on whether to approve the controversial deal. The FTC is currently investigating the proposed acquisition.

Representative Bobby Rush, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, has conducted the non-public briefing with the FTC he requested in July. In a letter sent to the commission, the Illinois Congressman stated the Subcommittee was considering holding a hearing after August to discuss the deal’s implications for competition and consumer privacy. A House Energy and Commerce hearing has yet to be scheduled.

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