Congress to Examine Google-DoubleClick Deal

SAN FRANCISCO, July 18 Google executives are expected to be called to testify before House and Senate subcommittees about the company’s planned $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick, a deal that is already facing close scrutiny from federal antitrust regulators.

Within days of the deal’s announcement in April, companies including Microsoft, AT&T and some in the advertising industry, began to complain that the merger of Google and DoubleClick would limit competition in the online advertising market. Privacy groups, meanwhile, voiced concerns about the deal’s impact on consumer privacy. In May, the Federal Trade Commission began an investigation into the proposed merger.

Now, a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee is planning to call a hearing to explore the antitrust and privacy issues raised not only by the Google deal but also by recent consolidation in the online advertising market, according to a person familiar with the planned hearing.

Bobby L. Rush, the Illinois Congressman who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee on consumer protection, said he had opened an investigation into the privacy and competition issues raised by the Google-DoubleClick deal and also planned to call a hearing.

“There is widespread concern about the proposed merger between Google and DoubleClick that the Federal Trade Commission currently is reviewing,” Mr. Rush wrote in a letter to the commission, which is posted on his Web site. “I share these concerns and am writing to notify you that the subcommittee is considering holding a hearing when an appropriate date becomes available.”

Without addressing the planned hearings directly, Google said in a statement that it believed that the deal would not harm competition and would withstand scrutiny.

No date has been set for either the House or Senate hearings.

The Google-DoubleClick deal precipitated a wave of consolidation in the online advertising industry, including Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of aQuantive, a DoubleClick rival, and Yahoo’s acquisition of Right Media, which runs an online advertising marketplace.

But while those last two deals were quickly cleared by antitrust regulators, the Google-DoubleClick merger has drawn more intense scrutiny.

Google, which dominates the business of placing text ads alongside search results and on sites across the Web, is expected to capture 27.4 percent of the $21.7 billion in United States online advertising in 2007, according to eMarketer, a research firm. The acquisition of DoubleClick would turn Google into a dominant player in the business of serving banners and other graphical ads that appear on Web sites.

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