Google, FTC poised to settle anti-trust saga
Search juggernaut agrees to amended practices; search untouched
Google Inc has agreed to a consent decree as part of a resolution to a 20-month US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into the search giant's alleged anti-competitive business practices, Bloomberg reported.
Three separate insiders said the FTC is ready to announce the terms of the settlement, which include a series of voluntary modifications to existing policies. The consent decree will cover the company's alleged practice of using industry-standard patents to try and block its smartphone competitors' products. Googe will also amend the way it uses content from other websites, in response to allegations that the company had used product reviews without permission. In addition, advertisers will be allowed access to performance data for export to other platforms.
The bad news for competitors such as Microsoft, Yelp and Expedia, will be the lack of enforcement action on the central issue in the FTC probe: the charge that Google manipulates its search results to favour its own services.
FairSearch.org, a coalition that includes Microsoft and Expedia, expressed disappointment in the decision, which is expected to be announced as soon as tomorrow, at a time when EU regulators are pressing Google for a firm commitment on amending its search methodology.
"If the FTC fails to take decisive action to end Google's anti-competitive practices, and locks itself out of any remedies to Google's conduct that are offered in Europe later this month, the FTC will have acted prematurely and failed in its mission of protecting America's consumers," said a FairSearch.org blog post published yesterday.
In addition, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel Dave Heiner blogged yesterday that Google continued "to prevent Microsoft from offering consumers a fully featured YouTube app for the Windows Phone".
The issue, which Heiner has brought to the attention of both the FTC and EU anti-trust regulators, is "just one example of where we believe Google is impeding competition in the marketplace", he said.
Google, which owns YouTube, has stopped Microsoft's new Windows Phones from operating fully with the video service, Heiner claimed in the posting, while its own Android operating system is compatible.