Google Antitrust Settlement With FTC Could Come Soon: Report
But the potential deal doesn't target a key part of the government investigation—whether Google's actions harm competitors intentionally.Google was first notified of a "formal review" of its business practices in June 2011 by the FTC, after similar reviews began in Europe. At that time, the European Commission launched an investigation into the company's search practices after vertical search engines such as Foundem, eJustice.fr and Microsoft's Ciao complained the company favored its own Web services in search results on Google.com over theirs. They argued that this put them at a significant competitive disadvantage in the market. Google has faced similar accusations in the United States from Texas State Attorney General Gregg Abbott, who asked for reams of info on Google's ad pricing, shopping search and the ranking of Websites in search results and ad listings. The initial FTC review in 2011 began after the agency heard complaints from Microsoft, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Yelp and other Websites that Google promotes its own Web services above those of competitors. Google denied all such allegations at that time, noting that its search algorithms analyze Website quality and popularity based on links for placement as part of its PageRank system. In July, Google reached a record $22.5 million settlement with the FTC to resolve charges that Google bypassed Apple Safari browser privacy settings that blocked cookies for their users. The settlement was criticized by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an industry group, as "a dangerously overbroad precedent that will chill Internet innovation and hurt online startups," the Institute said in a statement at that time.