Google, FTC settle on search practices, ending patent probe
LOS ANGELES — Google reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission to make voluntary changes to its search practices to put an end to a 19-month antitrust probe, the FTC announced Thursday.
Google also has settled an investigation into its handling of mobile technology patents that it acquired when it bought Motorola Mobility.
The settlement brings to a close one of the FTC's most closely watched investigations. Google still faces antitrust investigations by European regulators and some U.S. state attorneys general. Google is expected to offer concessions to resolve the European Union probe this month.
Google agreed to give marketers more control over their ads. It agreed to limit its use of snippets or reviews and other content from rivals.
It also resolved a separate antitrust case involving Google's use of patents to attempt to keep competitors from using mobile technology.
“The changes Google has agreed to make will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of competition in the online marketplace and in the market for innovative wireless devices they enjoy,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “This was an incredibly thorough and careful investigation by the commission, and the outcome is a strong and enforceable set of agreements.”
Competitors don't see it that way. That the Internet search giant is emerging largely unscathed from the antitrust probe frustrated competitors, including software giant Microsoft, which had its own yearslong battle with antitrust regulators in the late 1990s and 2000s just as Google began its rise to dominance in online search.
Microsoft, which runs the Bing search engine, has accused Google of abusing that dominance, harming consumers and competitors. It has railed against the FTC for doing nothing to rein in Google's growing monopoly on the web.
Google handles about two-thirds of all U.S. web searches, according to research firm ComScore Inc. It handles more than 80 percent in much of Europe. The software giant has mounted campaigns to condemn Google's business practices. Competitors have said that Google search results promote its own online services. Google has maintained that it has done nothing wrong.
“The evidence the FTC uncovered through this intensive investigation prompted us to require significant changes in Google's business practices. However, regarding the specific allegations that the company biased its search results to hurt competition, the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission,” Beth Wilkinson, outside counsel to the FTC, said in a written statement. “Undoubtedly, Google took aggressive actions to gain advantage over rival search providers. However, the FTC's mission is to protect competition, and not individual competitors. The evidence did not demonstrate that Google's actions in this area stifled competition in violation of U.S. law.”
“The conclusion is clear: Google's services are good for users and good for competition,” David Drummond, Google's senior vice president and chief legal officer, wrote in a blog post.
The settlement with the FTC and the search giant was nearly done before the Christmas holiday, but concern that the deal was too weak from rivals and state attorneys general delayed a vote from the commission.
David Balto, a former policy director of the FTC's bureau of competition, who has done some paid work for Google, said the decision was a “win-win” for consumers.
“Consumers benefit because Google will not be hobbled by unnecessary regulation or denied the opportunity to try to win consumer loyalty through aggressive competition,” Balto said. “The FTC's mission is protect consumers, and as today's statement makes clear, there is no consumer harm.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- U.S. oil, natural gas rig count drops by 34 to 954
- Is Big Brother a backseat driver?
- Google’s changes to search results formula expected to shake up mobile economy
- Jump in home loans, trading commissions lead to profitable 1st quarter for banks
- Mylan discounts speculation of a possible takeover by Teva
- Pa. employers shed 12,700 jobs in March; unemployment rate rises to 5.3 percent
- Renewed fears of Greek default whack stock market
- Here’s how to clean your car
- Hearings set on new environmental rules for gas, oil drilling in Pa.
- PPG axes 1,700 jobs as part of global restructuring
- Review: Chevrolet Trax is an affordable SUV option