Report: FTC looking at reopening antitrust investigation against Google
International regulatory actions, state attorneys general and competitor lobbying causing agency to reconsider action.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) officials may be preparing to reopen the “search bias” antitrust investigation against Google. That’s according to an article appearing in Politico.
Many Google critics and opponents were not happy when, three years ago, the FTC closed its investigation against Google. Google made several mostly minor concessions at the time. These included:
- no involuntary scraping of third-party content for inclusion in “specialized” (vertical) Google search results;
- easier exporting of AdWords campaigns to Bing and other platforms; and
- the now moot requirement that Google fairly license Motorola’s “standards-essential” patents to third-party mobile rivals (Google sold Motorola to Lenovo).
Earlier this year, two state attorneys general sent a letter (embedded below) to the FTC urging the commission to reopen the investigation against Google. It cited new evidence and “significant international regulatory action” in Europe, India and Canada in support of their position.
The Politico article also references an unnamed “major US company that objects to Google’s practices,” which has apparently been lobbying the FTC for renewed action. Given the recent detente between Microsoft and Google, that company is probably not Redmond.
Politico characterizes the potentially renewed investigation as in “the early, information-gathering stage.”
Last year, leaked documents showed a vigorous debate, at the time, within the FTC about whether to pursue legal action against Google. Personnel within the FTC’s Bureau of Competition recommended litigation against the company, which was ultimately rejected by the Commissioners.
In Europe, Google is likely to face potentially substantial fines in the absence of additional search-related concessions, which the company has so far been unwilling to make. The European Commission has also separately charged Google with breaking antitrust rules with its Android agreements.