Google antitrust probe could end this week

FTC anxious for wrap-up; search giant unlikely to face binding agreement

Tags: Google IncorporatedUSA
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Google antitrust probe could end this week The FTC will likely conclude that Google did nothing wrong in its practice of search rankings.
By  Stephen McBride Published  December 18, 2012

The US Federal Trade Commission could this week drop its investigation of Google's search ranking practices, without seeking binding agreements on future policies from the search giant, Reuters reported.

However, Google is expected to stop using product reviews from other websites without permission, a habit that led to another complaint leveled at the company through the FTC. Google is also expected to start sharing analytics information on ad campaigns with the customers who run the promotions.

Google also came under scrutiny for using patents it holds to seek sales injunctions on competitors' smartphones. Industry experts and antitrust advocates had argued that the patents were for so-called essential standards and that it was inappropriate to use them to bar another product from the market. Google is now expected to agree to strict standards when pursuing such cases.

According to two sources close to the case, no such compromise has been reached on the issue of search rankings, but the FTC is likely to conclude that Google did not act contrary to anti-competition rules. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who is widely expected to resign by the end of the year is said to have expressed a desire for the case to be concluded within that timeframe.

But as the two-year dispute draws to a close, Google may achieve breathing room only. The FTC had originally bickered with the anti-trust division of the US Justice Department over which agency would take on the search company, and now that the FTC's skirmish has ended with token victories only, Google's domestic critics may push for the Justice Department to get involved.

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