Google's Antitrust Dance with the FTC: Analysts Weigh In

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2012-12-20 Print this article Print

Google might have been heading on a lenient path with the FTC’s antitrust investigation, but critics may be getting the agency to be more aggressive.

It's a different approach in Europe, he said. "Because of that, the EU is in a better position to legislate and regulate for the people ahead of the interests of the company in question. And, it appears that in the case of Google, it intends on doing so."

With that in mind, the FTC might be waiting to see what the EU does in its case against Google so it can follow the lead of the EU, wrote Duplessie. "If and when the EU levies real, serious rules of engagement for Google—which it must follow or the penalties will be massively detrimental to its business operations (unlike the slap on the wrist they would most likely receive in the U.S.)—they become the standard bearer for as the protector of the peoples interest. If the FTC were to come up with some [lesser] finding that has zero teeth, they would look completely foolish."

Dan Maycock, an analyst with Slalom Consulting, said it's ironic that Microsoft is one of the companies seeking harsher actions against Google by the FTC, especially since Microsoft was in a similar antitrust bind over its inclusion of its Internet Explorer browser as the default browser in its earlier Windows operating systems.

"Things are very cyclical," said Maycock. "Microsoft is coming at Google here because they are trailing" in the search marketplace. "They know this story all too well."

Yes, the FTC has been too lenient in its approach toward Google so far, he said. "I would say this is as big a deal as what Microsoft went through" in its antitrust dealings with the FTC. "I'm not sure why the FTC was backing off on this when they've been really good at telling dominant players to make room for others."

One possible reason, said Maycock, is that "search is ultimately not as cut and dry as a browser being built into an operating system," which was the key issue on the Microsoft antitrust case. "If I was sitting in the FTC's seat, I would say it's absolutely the same thing. They need to do what needs to be done to make it fair."

Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, said the delay in announcing a decision in the case has roots in politics.

"If the rumors about the EU being more severe in their treatment of Google are true, then it's entirely plausible to me that the FTC would say, 'Let's sit on our heels to see how things play out before making our own decision,’" said King. "The sense that I have is that it would not surprise me to see a more balanced approach here, that the FTC's ruling would not be radically out of balance with what's happening in Europe."


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