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Yelp VP: Google Engaged in Severely Anti-Competitive Behavior Against Its Competition

Monday on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Luther Lowe, vice president of public policy for Yelp, made the argument that Google was abusing its market advantages by snuffing out certain niche competition, particularly when it comes to local search and the use of smart phones.

Lowe likened it to Microsoft engaging in similar practices in the earlier days of the Internet.

Transcript as follows:

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST “TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT”: Google is beyond doubt, one of the most powerful companies in the world, probably the most powerful company in the history of the world, more powerful than most countries. It is the key player and search engines, online videos, online advertising. The company is dominant, is it a monopoly? Sure looks like one.

Luther Lowe is vice president of public policy at Yelp. He says that Google has engaged in severely anti-competitive behavior against its competition.

Luther Lowe joins us tonight. Luther, thanks a lot for coming on.

LUTHER LOWE, VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC POLICY, YELP: Thanks so much for having me on, Tucker.

CARLSON: So, it certainly looks like a monopoly to me, is it?

LOWE: Right. So, you know, every jurisdiction has different standards, but really, the best guide that we have today is that Microsoft, DOJ respected that case from 20 years ago.

CARLSON: Yes.

LOWE: Basically you had then Microsoft, which was dominant with Windows, snuffed, start-ups like Netscape, which we are trying to build tools in adjacent markets, the browser. And you kind of have a similar situation today where Google is dominant in general search, but there are these vertical search services, that Yelp is a local search service, TripAdvisor, ZocDoc services like this. And so it is not illegal to have a monopoly, there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is when you leverage that dominance and then unfairly go after sort of the smaller competitors in adjacent markets.

CARLSON: When you crush your competition and then you eliminate a choice for consumers.

LOWE: Exactly.

CARLSON: So explain the effects of their dominance, of their monopoly. On the rest of us, how does that affect free speech or democracy?

LOWE: Well, I first would go back to what you said about limiting choice for consumers, I would argue that that is sort of in indirect effects because eventually you’re right, the market shrivels up, consumers have reduced choice. But in the case of local search, which is what Yelp operates in, you actually do have direct effects of consumer harm. When a mom does a search for a pediatrician in Salt Lake City, today on Google, instead of getting matched with the best possible information, highly rated doctors of, you know, local doctors and pediatricians, she is instead getting this Google plus local box.

And so there is much better content across the web from services like — ZocDoc, Great MD, Health Grades, but what Google has done is basically push down these third-party services and sort of hardwired its own inferior content, content which hasn’t gone through the same type of meritocratic processes that it sends everybody else through. And so, in that sense —

CARLSON: So you can pay to rise to the top?

LOWE: It is not actually a pay-to-play thing, there are sort of three buckets of click and win. One is, the advertising world, one is sort of the meritocracy world, and Google has sort of crated this third bucket, which is their own closed off sandbox, that they are force-feeding the users unwittingly. Because 40 percent of all of our search, the biggest category in search is local-intent base.

So people are looking for Main Street small businesses in the outside world. And so what happened is, they dropped these boxes, which Google has a 98 percent durable market share. It takes up the whole screen, and people basically go into that experience assuming that’s that stuff, that is the best stuff out there.

CARLSON: But it is a lie. I wish I had time to get your answer to the question, why aren’t regulators doing something about this, but I hope you will come back.

LOWE: Absolutely.

CARLSON: Because we’re going to keep on this. Luther, thank you.

LOWE: Thank you.

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor

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