Oct 28, 2021 - Technology

Exclusive: Google warns customers about antitrust bills

Illustration of the Google "G" logo turning into a stop sign.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Google on Thursday warned some customers that antitrust bills targeting the tech giant could jeopardize the services small businesses rely on.

Why it matters: By turning to its customers, Google could drum up opposition from small businesses that may give lawmakers pause in advancing legislation.

Driving the news: Google is emailing small and medium sized businesses that use its advertising, analytics and free business profile tools, to tell them antitrust bills in the House and Senate could "cost your business time and money." Google said the dangers could include:

  • Making it harder for customers to find businesses because listings, including address and business hours, may no longer appear in Google Search results or on Google Maps.
  • Hurting the effectiveness of digital marketing if Google Ads products were broken up and disconnected from Google Analytics.

What they're saying: "[W]e're concerned that Congress' controversial package of bills could have unintended consequences, especially for small businesses who have relied on digital tools to adapt, recover and reach new customers throughout the pandemic," a Google spokesperson told Axios.

  • Google declined to say how many businesses it contacted. Customers using some Google products will also see a prompt encouraging them to opt in to receive more information about the bills.

Between the lines: Google is joining Amazon in warning businesses that rely on their platforms about the risks the antitrust legislation poses.

  • Amazon told sellers the bills could jeopardize their ability to host their businesses on it platform.

The other side: A GOP aide who worked on the legislation told Axios there's nothing in the bill that would force Amazon to boot third-party sellers off its platform, and that would be a policy choice by Amazon.

  • More broadly, the aide said, the legislation would stop companies from favoring their own products and services or discriminating against rivals in a way that hurts competition.

The big picture: Antitrust bills in the House and Senate meant to regulate the largest technology companies are gaining momentum.

  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced the American Innovation and Choice Online Act this month, the companion to House legislation that bans the platforms from unfairly favoring their own services.
  • Google panned the bill, with vice president of government affairs and public policy Mark Isakowitz saying, "it would break a wide range of helpful services from leading American companies, while making those services less safe, less private and less secure."

What's next: Google launched a website about the legislation and urged its small business customers to sign up to receive more information about the bills.

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