FTC, EU to delay Google antitrust decisions: report

FTC, EU to delay Google antitrust decisions: report

Summary: The U.S. FTC will delay its decision over Google's antitrust probe until 2013, but the search giant could settle with EU authorities as soon as January, according to reports.

TOPICS: Google, Government, Legal
Credit: Robert Scoble/Flickr

Speaking to unnamed sources, Bloomberg reports that the FTC's final decision on its 20-month long antitrust probe of the search giant will be delayed until next year. The results of the probe were expected to be announced this week.

The Mountain View, California-based company has been in talks with the Commission over the past two weeks, and according to the London-based newspaper, Google has been preparing a letter with voluntary changes in order to try and end the FTC's investigation without it resulting in a formal settlement or eventual lawsuit.

In addition, the U.S. regulator has also been preparing to file a decree on patents which would limit the search engine giant from seeking court orders barring products when Google has previously agreed to license technology based on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

"Questions about Google's search bias and other anti-competitive practices will not end if the FTC fails to take legally binding action to protect consumers and innovators in the U.S., where the market conditions and law are different than the EU," said Fairsearch.org, a group of search engine competitors and critics of the idea that Google may be able to avoid a formal settlement, in an e-mailed statement to the news agency.

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and the European Union's antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia met last week in Brussels, Belgium, where Almunia said he expected an offer from Google by January 2013 to settle an additional antitrust probe, which is investigating complaints by rival firms that Google engaged with anti-competitive behavior.

In 2010, the EU launched an antitrust probe into Google's business practices after rival firms alleged that the tech giant employs a number of methods which impact on competition. The Commission received over a dozen formal complaints, including Microsoft-owned search engine Ciao!, Foundem, eJustice, Expedia, and TripAdvisor.

There are four main areas of concern that the EU has investigated. These include how Google's products are incorporated within general search results, mainly the firm's "vertical search" function which may push out competing services.

In addition, Google allegedly "copies content" such as user reviews without prior consent, and the "exclusivity" of agreements concerning Google advertising on other sites is also under scrutiny. Finally, the display of third-party content and the flexibility of AdWords advertising is a worry for the EU, who think restrictions on software developers may harm seamless campaign advertising from competitors.

Previously, talks were said to be on a "knife-edge," but the commission and Google are potentially making headway.

"Since our preliminary talks with Google started in July, we have substantially reduced our differences regarding possible ways to address each of the four competition concerns expressed by the commission," Almunia said in a statement on Tuesday.

In order to bring the European antitrust probe to a close, Google has been told it may have to make drastic changes to its mobile services, which would include mobile search and advertising. 

If Google is found guilty, under European law, the firm could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its global revenue, which equates to roughly $4 billion.

We've put in questions to the European Commission and will update once we hear back. 

Topics: Google, Government, Legal

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  • This article is not clear; Google has two antitrust probes against them: ..

    ... one is older, about search policies abuse, and the other is more recent, about FRAND patents that Google tries to use against Apple, which sues their partners and their subsidiary on the basis of their non-FRAND patents.

    Lets see if the reasons for any of those probes will be resolved by Google voluntary.
    • Really?

      I read the report and it seems pretty clear to me.

      Also: "Google has been preparing a letter with voluntary changes in order to try and end the FTC's investigation without it resulting in a formal settlement or eventual lawsuit." seems quite direct.

      Not sure what you were reading.
      Little Old Man
      • Did you really read the article? There is not a word about second probe and

        ... its essence.
  • the big government should back away

    from interferring with google's business!
    It's lame competition must be shunned and exposed for how lame it is!
    LlNUX Geek
    • Bet you wanted them to go after MS

      Didn't you . . .
  • Google also UNFAIR DISCRIMINATORY bias on AdSense!

    Google gets TONS and TONS of FREE advertising, after UNFAIR, BIASED behavior - likely they have their own "click-bombers" who 'bomb' sites, so Google WON'T HAVE TO PAY AdSense subscribers for the traffic.

    Example: I was very near getting to the point where AdSesnse would cut a check to me, but they claimed I had a "click-bomber" attacking me, which was inflating the stats - causing them to have to pay more - instead of giving me the benefit of the doubt, they PERMANENTLY CANCEL ME FORM ADSENSE *FOREVER* - Guilty without TRIAL!

    How about "Work with the subscriber and resolve the issue?" Now, you have lost MY BUSINESS [and] a potential HUGE (growing, future) audience for your advertisers - i.e. "loss of longer-term revenue for your clients."

    How do they handle "click-bombers" for their LARGER clients (clearly, small clients like me don't matter). I'm sure if someone "click-bombed" Android.com or whatever Google partner, Google has a "formula" where they can account for "statistically insignificant clicks;" but, since small subscribers like me have no choice, Google can be biased, and get out of having to pay - giving their clients free advertising, at the expense of the "little guy."

    No trial, no second chance - CANCELED - *FOREVER*! No appeals allowed - PERIOD!

    Just letting you know some of Google's tactics. As for search engine - they rock! As for "business practices," shady, bordering on unethical; definitely biased / unfair; skimming revenue from the backs of the 99%. Somebody's gotta do it.

    This is a big one, because trillions of dollars in our economy depend on which way Google directs traffic for any given keyword/phrase.

    Also, there is a GIANT profit motive for Google to "rig the system", because companies with poor SEO invariably turn to Google's "Adwords" product to make up the difference.

    In my own experience, ever since Panda & Penguin, the search engine has behaved strangely. In my case, competitive SEO has been a part of my skillset since 1996, but these days I feel very uncomfortable with the results it produces in Google search.

    Bing still feels predictable & produces "normal" results across the multiple niche-markets I serve, leading me to believe that the problem lies with Google, not with "more websites competing for keywords" or "SEO changing and maybe I missed something".

    Are the effects of this being seen in industry? I think so: it seems that much of the push towards social media is to avoid spending thousands on Adwords when traditional search results don't produce enough leads.

    In any case, when a $30 billion profit-motive (Adwords) exists to skew search engine results, it presents to me a very compelling motive for the planet's biggest search provider to make their complete algorithm public.

    • "timventura" - My guess: You are 'on the money!'

      I think you hit the proverbial nail on the head. It is in Google's best interest to leverage its behemoth, near-monopolistic presence to the financial advantage of its "favorite partners" and to itself as well.

      And, as I've implied previously, AdSense itself is a large enough revenue stream that it also warrants having a 3rd-party, unbiased firm, to mediate and monitor their strong-arm tactics against their defenseless subscribers; whom Google can, at its own whim, terminate its relationship with, without any trial, hearing or arbitration.