Google still answering antitrust questions from Texas AG

Inquiry focuses on changing AdWords prices and minimum bids and outcomes of AdWords auctions

Google is still working to satisfy a request made by the Texas Attorney General's office last summer for documents and information about its advertising systems and practices.

The Texas AG's office sent Google a formal request for information about its advertising practices in July as part of an investigation into possible violations of the state's antitrust laws by the search company.

The 13-page letter is a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) containing a set of questions as well as demands for documents. Google's deadline for responding satisfactorily to the CID was Aug. 17, but the matter hasn't been resolved.

"We're continuing to work with the Texas Attorney General's office to answer their questions and understand any concerns," a Google spokesman said via e-mail on Wednesday.

Although Google in September acknowledged receiving the letter, the issue resurfaced on Tuesday when Bloomberg reported on the inquiry.

An AG's office spokesman declined to comment on the status of the investigation, but said that the office has provided copies of the letter upon request prior to this week.

In the letter, the AG's office requests include the names of Google employees "with principal responsibility" for establishing or changing the prices or minimum bids in the AdWords ad system and for employees in charge of negotiating agreements and managing business relationships with search partners.

The letter also specifically requests the names of Google employees in charge of the advertising and marketing relationships with five specific vertical search engines, whose complaints prompted the AG's office inquiry, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In its September blog posting acknowledging the investigation, Google pointed out that four of the vertical search engines mentioned in the AG's letter are connected to Microsoft in various ways.

Microsoft didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Requested documents include those related to Google's "policies, procedures, algorithms and/or practices" for establishing or changing AdWords prices and minimum bids, as well as for "governing the outcome" of AdWords auctions.

The Texas AG's office also requested documents related to complaints about the AdWords system, and again specifically about the five vertical search engines, including the impact on them of changes in AdWords prices or minimum bids.

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