Google's FTC Settlement Criticized by Rivals Microsoft, Yelp

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2013-01-05 Print this article Print

In an email to Reuters, Yelp spokesman Vince Sollitto said that the "closure of the commission's investigation into search bias by Google without action ... represents a missed opportunity to protect innovation in the Internet economy. We look for the regulatory bodies continuing their investigation to have greater success."

Michael Jennings, a spokesman for the European Commission—the European Union's antitrust arm—told Reuters that regulators there "have taken note of the FTC decision, but we don't see that it has any direct implications for our investigation, for our discussions with Google, which are ongoing."

European regulators have been looking at Google's practices for two years, and are asking for the search giant to offer ways to settle the investigation. Google had come up with preliminary proposals in July.

During a conference call with journalists Jan. 3, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said that there was not enough evidence to support the allegations that Google's algorithms unfairly favored Google results over those of competitors.  

"Many of Google's critics—including many of its competitors—wanted the commission to go further in this investigation and regulate the intricacies of Google's search engine algorithm," Leibowitz said, adding that the agency "did not believe that the evidence supported an FTC challenge to this aspect of Google's business under American law."

Microsoft and others appeared to have been expecting a regulatory battle similar to the software giant's lengthy landmark case with the Department of Justice more than a decade ago. However, the relatively short investigation by the FTC may be a sign that things have changed since the Microsoft case, according to Gartner analyst French Caldwell.

"Wow—less than two years to settle the Google antitrust case," Caldwell wrote in a Jan. 3 blog post. "Remember the Microsoft antitrust case—it seemed to drag on forever. One difference here is that the Google case was handled by the FTC, which has become the de facto consumer information technology industry regulator."

The CCIA's Black indicated that the FTC's process was preferable to what has been done in the past.

"The FTC's decision not to proceed with a search case against Google was the right call," he said. "Over the course of its far-reaching 19-month investigation, the FTC thoroughly reviewed the facts and the applicable law and made its decision accordingly. This is exactly how law enforcement is supposed to work. This was a prudent decision by the FTC that shows that antitrust enforcement, in the hands of responsible regulators, is sufficiently adaptable to the realities of the Internet age."



Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel