The U.S. Justice Department is serious about probing the Google Books settlement for possible anti-trust violations. Consumer Watchdog was one of the first organizations to ask the department to investigate.
In a letter released Thursday to Judge Denny Chin, who is overseeing the case, William F. Cavanaugh, the Justice Department’s deputy assistant attorney general, wrote:
"The United States has reviewed public comments expressing concern that aspects of the settlement agreement may violate the Sherman Act…
"The United States has reached no conclusions as to the merit of those concerns or more broadly what impact this settlement may have on competition. However, we have determined that the issues raised by the proposed settlement warrant further inquiry."
Judge Chin, by the way, is the same judge who just sentenced Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff to 150 years in jail.
The Justice Department didn’t have to tell the judge anything. The fact that its lawyers decided to formally notify him is an important development. It demonstrates that the Justice Department is taking anti-trust concerns raised by Consumer Watchdog, and others, very seriously.
Sure, it’s not yet clear what the department will decide, but you can make a sure bet on one thing. Look for Google to double its recent "Charm Offensive," trying to claim that competition is only one click away.