Google, FTC Antitrust Drama Continues

Google, FTC Antitrust Drama Continues

November 28th, 2012
Google, FTC Antitrust Drama Continues

Google CEO Larry Page met in Washington yesterday with U.S. Federal Trade Commission officials over the 19-month investigation of Google's business practices. According to those close to the discussion, Google is seeking to persuade the FTC that it hasn't broken any antitrust laws. Google has been engaged in settlement talks with the FTC for about a week, including an effort to define whether there’s a market where Google has a monopoly.

 

According to an article on Bloomberg, 
 
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz is pressing Google to resolve the agency’s concerns about its dominance of Internet search or be prepared to face a lawsuit, two people familiar with the matter said Nov. 13. Issues that have been under discussion include Google’s exclusive agreements to provide search services to online publishers and alleged misuse of patents to try to block rivals’ smartphones from coming to market. The FTC also is treating seriously complaints that Google used customer reviews from other websites without permission.
 
Meanwhile, a column on Search Engine Land pointed out that the issue of "search bias" has faded to the background somewhat-- meaning that the discussions seem to be focusing less lately on whether or not Google favors its own results over third-party services, as opponents of Google claim. In fact, Greg Sterling writes:
 
Google contends that it’s merely delivering a better search experience for consumers and that it doesn’t have “distinct products.” In other words, Google Maps is part of Google not a “vertical.” Rivals contend that Google’s “verticals” (e.g., Shopping, Travel) are forcing out their sites (pushing them “further down the page”) as part of a conspiracy of sorts to get them to buy ads for visibility.
 
However, both Google and the FTC seem would prefer the idea of settlements to litigation; litigation would damage the search giant's reputation, and the FTC has stated it “has told Google it won’t accept a resolution short of a consent decree,” which would grand ongoing enforcement authority to the agency.
 
What do you think of the situation? Do you think that Google has a monopoly over the search markets, or that their supposed search bias is a conspiracy that will force sites to buy ads? Share your opinion with us in the comments.

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