FTC Moves Closer to Pursuing Antitrust Action Against Google

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FTC Moves Closer to Pursuing Antitrust Action Against Google

On Friday, Reuters reported that four of the five Federal Trade Commissioners were convinced that antitrust action is warranted in the case against search giant, Google. This announcement lines up with other actions the FTC took in recent months as they have been investigating complaints against Google.

According to Reuters:

The FTC announced in April that it had hired high-powered Washington lawyer Beth Wilkinson to lead the probe. The hiring was seen as a sign that the FTC was contemplating filing a lawsuit against Google.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in mid-September that he expected a decision in the case by the end of the year. European regulators are conducting a similar antitrust probe.

If the agency finds that Google broke the law, the FTC and Google could hammer out a settlement that resolves the issues or, if settlement negotiations fail, the matter could end up in a lengthy, expensive court fight.

Steve Lohr of the New York Times wrote:

The government’s escalating pursuit of Google is the most far-reaching antitrust investigation of a corporation since the landmark federal case against Microsoft in the late 1990s. The agency’s central focus is whether Google manipulates search results to favor its own products, and makes it harder for competitors and their products to appear prominently on a results page.

The FTC seems to be focusing on three main areas of concern: Is Google manipulating search results to give preference to its own products like Google Places and Google Shopping over other services like Yelp and NexTag? Is Google AdWords discriminating against advertisers of services that compete with its shopping and review sites? And finally, is Google using its smartphone patents to keep competition from advancing in that marketplace?

There is some debate among search industry experts on the issue of giving preference to Google products in search results.

In a postscript for a Search Engine Land article, Danny Sullivan commented:

The FTC doesn’t appear to be finding that Google is somehow abusing its market dominance by “favoring” its own vertical search engines such Google Places or Google Shopping over competitors like Yelp or Nextag. Nothing about this is mentioned in the report. Rather, the FTC seems more concerned about ensuring that ad campaigns can be made “portable” from Google to competitors like Bing.

And yet, the FTC has spent a great deal of time questioning complainants about the “favoring” issue. According to the New York Times article, NexTag testified to the commission that as Google began building up its shopping offerings, their traffic from Google search had dropped significantly. They have been forced to invest in additional site builds, more robust SEO technology, and spend even more on Google advertising to maintain their current rate of incoming Web traffic from search.

Google could get an opportunity to settle with the FTC much as it is currently negotiating with the European Union. But in light of the FTC’s pursuit of Microsoft, Google should expect a long battle ahead.

Michelle Stinson Ross

Michelle Stinson Ross

Content & Outreach Goddess at AuthorityLabs
Michelle Stinson Ross is a digital marketing industry recognized authority on the outreach power of social media. She has worked as a community manager and... Read Full Bio
Michelle Stinson Ross
Michelle Stinson Ross
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  • David

    Gotta love that good old drive to build products and promote your own products and services. When did it become a crime to offer YOUR products first. The next time I go to target and ask a sales lady a question about a product she better not offer me their brand, and better tell me 3 other stores with better products. Seriously, this is insane. If you do not like it then stop using them and they will change. There are TONS of other choices out there. And making your ad campaigns portable from Google to Bing… REALLY! Save it as a text file and use the text file to put it in Bing.

    Sorry to be a business owner in todays market where I am not encouraged to make the product or products and then offer that as the primary product to people using my product. Some days I wish that Google would just shutdown their engine and see how the world whines about how big they are and how they push their products too much. It is FREE people, get over yourselves.

    • Michelle Stinson Ross

      Sooooooooooooo wishing I had a way to click a “like” button on your comment, my friend.

      The fine edge of the antitrust sword is this; are we protecting consumers or Google’s competitors? Because last I checked, the antitrust laws are in place to protect consumers. It’s up to the big G’s competitors to offer something that will tempt users away from Google.

      • David


        Yeah, I switched to duckduckgo.com along time ago to stop alot of the push promo stuff. I personally am a google heavy user with apps, and everything under the sun including Android and I do not feel like I am being given less of a choice by using their products. In fact I bet if you polled 100 random people most would not even realize that Google owns Android, and Gmail and have no issues with sharing data between them or being given other products that work just as well.

  • virtualguru

    So we can’t put any trust in any giant companie because when they fall we loose our services and data.
    How about cloud people to people without any companie. Long live to people?