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FTC urged not to fudge fairness in Google case

Two US lawmakers rush to defend search titan in antitrust action

FTC urged not to fudge fairness in Google case
Google is accused of a host of anti-competitive practices.

Two US lawmakers yesterday wrote to the Federal Trade Commission, urging it not to overstep its authority as it takes action against Google for alleged breaches of antitrust law, Reuters reported.

The California Democrats, who sit in the House of Representatives and count Google as a major campaign contributor, asked the FTC not to accuse the company of "unfair" acts as it pursues its case against the search giant.

Anna Eshoo, on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Zoe Lofgren, a member of the Judiciary Committee, suspected the FTC was planning to use the "unfair" standard to gloss over some difficult-to-prove elements that are nonetheless required in a US antitrust complaint.

They argued such obfuscation might lead to over-broad authority for the FTC that could foster a climate of legal uncertainty for businesses and compromise economic growth.

"Such a massive expansion of FTC jurisdiction would be unwarranted, unwise, and likely have negative implications for our nation's economy," the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was dated November 19 and sent to the five FTC commissioners.

The FTC is investigating Google on the basis of a series of complaints lodged by its competitors. The company has been accused of prioritising its own services in Internet searches and of engaging in legal action against competitors over alleged violations of standard essential patents.

Standard essential patents are those that cover aspects of products that are designed to comply with industry standards. Since standards exist to promote interoperability, companies are normally required to license such patents at a reasonable and non-prejudicial rate.

Google is accused of eschewing these principles in favour of suing competitors for infringing the patents, a strategy long frowned upon by antitrust officials.

And the search giant is not alone in this practice. Apple and Microsoft have been accused of similar tactics as industry juggernauts jostle for position in the cutthroat global smartphone market.

Google is the seventh largest contributor to Eshoo, donating $13,000 during the 2012 election cycle, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. It is the third largest contributor to Lofgren, who got $14,500 from Google. The donations came from a Google political action committee and employees and lobbyists associated with Google.

FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan confirmed that the commission had received the letter but had no comment.

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