Google avoid FTC action


After a 19 month investigation into the search giant, examining claims of anti-competitive behavior, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided not to take legal action against Google.


It is an impressive victory for Google, as the FTC ruled that the company had not acted illegally in promoting its own products and services in its search results. In fact they went further to state that “… the introduction of Universal Search, as well as additional changes made to Google’s search algorithms – even those that may have had the effect of harming individual competitors – could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google’s product and the experience of its users.”


This comes despite the claims of competitors, including Microsoft, that Google are notorious for manipulating search results for their own gains. Google Plus routinely ranks ahead of Facebook, Google’s travel results always seem to appear ahead of Expedia and others, and their shopping results are partly based on how much advertisers pay to Google for placement.


The FTC’s judgement, however, allows the damage to Google’s competitors to be waived due to the fact that they see Google in effect helping its customers with search algorithm changes. Some critics have claimed that the leniency shown by the FTC is a direct result of lobbying by the search giant, which has grown to an amount greater than Apple, Microsoft and Facebook combined.


The settlement does include some provisions to prevent Google abusing its FRAND patents (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) that it acquired through the purchase of Motorola. The company will have to stop excluding competitors from using standards essential patents owned by Motorola Mobility. Google has agreed to a Consent Order that will prohibit it from seeking injunctions against a willing licensee, either in federal court or at the International Trade Commission (ITC). The company will not be able to block the use of any “standard-essential patents” that Google had previously committed to license on FRAND terms. If left unchecked, this could have resulted in consumers feeling the effect of higher prices as users of the patents faced higher licensing fees or a lengthy court room battle.


Google have also made two voluntary changes, allowing websites to opt out of specialized search results pages, such as local, travel and shopping as well as giving the ability to mix and copy ad campaign data within third-party services that use Google’s AdWords API.


Google are still being investigated by the European Union, however, who say they will not be rushed to judgement, and given their past record may not be so lenient towards the monopoly.


Thanks for reading,

the better twin.

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