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Yelp condemns Google’s practices in senate antitrust hearing

Yelp thinks Google has broken antitrust laws, saying  at a hearing focused on the search giant that the company stifles competition and lies to consumers . 

Tuesday’s U.S. Senate hearing titled “Examining Self-Preferencing by Digital Platforms” gave Yelp the chance to speak out against its biggest competitor, CNBC reports. Luther Lowe, Yelp’s senior vice president of public policy, said that Yelp has had many concerns over the years about Google’s ratings and reviews feature on its search engine. 

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“Today, when a mom searches for a pediatrician in Salt Lake City on Google, instead of being matched with the most relevant information from across the web, she is steered toward a set of results that come solely from Google’s exclusionary corpus of ratings and reviews,” Lowe said during his prepared testimony. “This self-serving bias matches unwitting consumers with objectively lower-quality information. And because local searches like this are the most common type of search people conduct, Google’s self-dealing produces at least a billion degraded search results in the United States every week.” 

Lowe added that Google has “shifted from providing users the most relevant and high-quality information on the internet to providing users whatever would keep them on Google’s own properties for as long as possible, even if that means the information is false.”

When you search for a business on Google, you can also find reviews and ratings from people who have visited that business, just like Yelp’s company model. However, Lowe said that Google now populates its search results pages with its own Google results that appear at the very top where you are more likely to click. 

“Google physically demoted non-Google results even if they contained information with higher-quality scores than the Google information,” he said. 

Lowe said that Google’s practices are not only unfair to companies like Yelp but American consumers as well. Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported millions of fake business listings on Google’s local searches, which resulted in customers being ripped off and doing business with someone who wasn’t actually representing a real business. 

Both the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the attorneys general of 50 states are conducting separate antitrust probes into whether the search giant acted in an anticompetitive manner. The issue in question is whether Google undermined consumer choice and stifled innovation in a way that harmed regular customers.

Google is only one of many big tech companies under fire for questionable antitrust practices. Facebook has antitrust investigations from almost every state and the DOJ, as well as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is also asking Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft why and how they acquired individual companies. 

Digital Trends reached out to both Yelp and Google to comment. We will update this story when we hear back. 

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