FTC 'close' to announcing Google antitrust case: report

FTC 'close' to announcing Google antitrust case: report

Summary: The U.S. government is preparing an antitrust case against Google over its search monopoly, reports say, and could issue a formal complaint in the coming weeks.

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is reportedly gearing up to announce a formal antitrust investigation into Google's business practices, according to sources speaking to the Reuters news agency.

The U.S. government's trade regulator may be preparing the investigation to start as soon as November or December, as European regulators continue to simultaneously probe the search giant for allegedly abusing its dominant position in the search market.

Reuters cited four FTC commissioners who have become "convinced" that after a year of investigating the firm's dominance in the market hurts its competitors and rivals. One commissioner however remains "skeptical," citing three anonymous sources.

A probe into Google began in mid-last year. Since then, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt was hauled up in front of a U.S. Senate panel a few months later in September 2011 where he testified under oath to claim that the firm did not "cook" search results. 

Rival firms claim that Google serves up its own products and services ahead of its rivals in search queries. Schmidt said that its own services are subject to the "same search ranking algorithm process as all organic search results."

But the FTC has clearly found something -- we presume it relates to Google's search and advertising business, but will find out when the FTC announces something, expected in the coming days or weeks -- that the trade watchdog believes the search giant falls foul of U.S. antitrust law.

On the other side of the pond, the European Commission continues to focus on its own investigation into the search giant, which remains in relative stasis since early this year.

While Google has yet been charged with an official complaint in Europe -- otherwise known as a "statement of objections" -- the search giant is reportedly offering concessions in a bid to appease the European regulators as it seeks to settle the claims. 

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said last month that the negotiations continue but are "not there yet." He added that if Google does not offer "effective solutions" to the complaints: "I will be obliged to continue with our formal proceedings," he added. 

Google could face a maximum fine of up to 10 percent of their global turnover, amounting to €2.9 billion ($3.8bn) based on the firm's 2011 global revenue.

Typically, though the U.S. FTC and the European antitrust authorities work independently and separately, they often work together on matters on transatlantic matters. It's not uncommon therefore, for example, for an European and U.S. antitrust matter -- whether a probe or clearing two merging companies -- to be announced at the same time.

Questions were left with Google but did not respond at the time of publication. The FTC did not respond outside U.S. business hours.

Topics: Google, Government US, Legal

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9 comments
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  • Leave Google alone

    There is plenty I don't like about Google, but this will be just another case in a long history of anti-trust cases demonstrating that all the anti-trust laws do is punish the successful for being successful. Every advantage Google gains from its dominance in Search is an advantage they have earned. Anyone who wants a similar advantage is free to develop their own internet search company and market it to dominance and gain similar advantages.

    "the firm's dominance in the market the company [sic] the company hurts its competitors and rivals" (Zack, way to butcher a sentence) - Every successful company hurts its rivals. It's called *competition*. The question is, did Google use physical force or coercion to gain an advantage? Of course not. Companies are entitled to injure their rivals by introducing products that customers prefer of those of their rivals.

    "Rival firms claim that Google serves up its own products and services ahead of its rivals in search queries." - Sorry, but Google should have the absolute right to serve up whatever products and services it wants to. If Google wants to favor its own products and services when serving up search results, it has to absolute right to do so, regardless of its search market share. Users have the right to decide for themselves whether they are okay with Google doing that, and if not, they can choose another search engine, of which there are plenty to choose from.

    The antitrust laws need to be repealed. Please read Dominick Armentano's book, "Antitrust: The case for Repeal". And leave Google alone.
    FDanconia
  • Leave Google alone

    There is plenty I don't like about Google, but this will be just another case in a long history of anti-trust cases demonstrating that all the anti-trust laws do is punish the successful for being successful. Every advantage Google gains from its dominance in Search is an advantage they have earned. Anyone who wants a similar advantage is free to develop their own internet search company and market it to dominance and gain similar advantages.

    "the firm's dominance in the market the company [sic] the company hurts its competitors and rivals" (Zack, way to butcher a sentence) - Every successful company hurts its rivals. It's called *competition*. The question is, did Google use physical force or coercion to gain an advantage? Of course not. Companies are entitled to injure their rivals by introducing products that customers prefer of those of their rivals.

    "Rival firms claim that Google serves up its own products and services ahead of its rivals in search queries." - Sorry, but Google should have the absolute right to serve up whatever products and services it wants to. If Google wants to favor its own products and services when serving up search results, it has to absolute right to do so, regardless of its search market share. Users have the right to decide for themselves whether they are okay with Google doing that, and if not, they can choose another search engine, of which there are plenty to choose from.

    The antitrust laws need to be repealed. Please read Dominick Armentano's book, "Antitrust: The case for Repeal". And leave Google alone.
    FDanconia
  • What we've got are three monopolists competing against each other.

    While I'm generally sympathetic to the sentiments behind anti-trust cases, I think we really need to broaden our scope if we want to truly the extent to which the public is helped or harmed by Google's dominant position in search. That's because what we have in the tech sector, right now, is three companies that are, effectively monopolies in one are and use that fact as leverage to try and compete against their rivals in fields in which they do not enjoy that advantage. Yes, Google has an effective monopoly on search, but Microsoft has an effective monopoly on desktop and server operating systems, while Apple has a monopoly on hi-tech consumer electronics like MP3 players, tablet PCs and to a lesser extent smartphones. And each of these three companies is working quite hard to brake into the markets dominated by its rivals. With Android and Chrome Google is trying to break into the desktop and tablet/smartphone market (with much better success in phones than tablets). Apple is dumping Google as its map provider to attemtp to menitze location based search services formerly dominated by Google. And Microsoft through its developemnt of Bing and the new touch friendly GUI of Windows 8 is trying to break into search and the consumer tablet/phone market.

    For the government to come in and undermine the near-monopoly position of any one of these three giants would put them a great disadvantage over their rivals, an dprobably lead to taht company's demise, thus hurting consumers who will be faced with less choices and higher prices. So either the government must break up Microsoft's OS monopoly, Apple's tablet monopoly and Google's serach monopoly, or they should leave these companies alone and allow them to compete against each other as succesfully as they have so far.
    dsf3g
    • Argh!

      Argh! I hate that you can't edit your posts any more: brake --> break, menetize --> monetize, taht --> that

      ...and I'm sure there are tons of other typos I won't even bother to look for because... well, what's the use?
      dsf3g
  • Ahhhh

    Have you not just announced it?
    spin498
  • this is an anti American and anti capitalist agenda

    of the corupt socialist administration inUSA and moronic EU bureaucrats.
    These FTC devilcratic bums and their corporate cronies must go this come November.
    M$ dirty tricks & propaganda and apple's brainwashing will be stoped in their tracks by the force of the FOSS community!
    LlNUX Geek
    • Lol.

      Lol. So you think both Apple and Microsoft are European Companies? Joke of the year.
      Ram U
  • google

    shut down google now it is not safe and is danger to me because i am dealing with id theft
    google needs to be shut down and sued
    ttx19
  • Monopoly?

    There is a bunch of search engines out there... Whoever does not want to use Google, should point their browsers to one of the others... try Yahoo, or Altavista, or Dogpile, or... etc...
    When you buy a brand new PC, and you try using Internet Explorer for the first time, the default search engine is Bing... Naturally, if you download Chrome and use it as your browser, don't expect to have it set up by default with anything but Google, but actually you can change that as well.
    So, instead of wasting money with these kind of non-sense, let's put it on something worth, like... whatever else.
    FuzzyIce