Yelp yelps about Google at senate hearing

Yelp, Expedia and Nextag are to pile in on anti-trust investigations into Google at a Senate hearing today.

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman is to claim that Google’s been acting anti-competitively by misusing Yelp review content in its competing Places product, and by favoring  Places in search results.

“Google forces review websites to provide their content for free to benefit Google’s own competing product – not consumers,” he plans to tell the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee.

“Google then gives its own product preferential treatment in Google search results.”

Stoppelman claims that, after a license to use Yelp’s review content in its results expired in 2007, Google started sourcing its own user reviews. Last year, however, he says that Google started automatically including content from Yelp – without a new license agreement.

When Yelp asked it to stop, he says, Google said it would only do so if Yelp agreed to be removed from the overall search index.

Jeffrey Katz, CEO of Nextag, and Tom Barnett, spokesman for and counsel to Expedia, will also speak at the hearing. Expedia, too, believes it is being bumped from search results, and Nextag claims it’s being blocked from bidding on the best ads.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt is expected to deny the claims – and counter with the company’s standard argument that it’s threatened by competitors including Bing. He’s also likely to claim that the company is a major revenue generator for small American businesses.