As Google Evolves To Satisfy User Demands, Others Are Necessarily Marginalized

Google mobile app logo While it might not get off quite as easily in Europe, Google definitely "dodged a bullet" at the FTC, which recently concluded its antitrust investigation and didn't ask the company to make any changes in the way it presents search results. That was a major disappointment to Google competitors, critics and other third party publishers, which have become alarmed by what they see as a virtual land grab by Mountain View. The now-familiar lament goes: once Google was simply a way to organize and discover information, to get people from A to B. However, over the past several years Google has bec [...]

EU Antitrust Chief: Google “Diverting Traffic” & Will Be Forced To Change

google-eu-featured While saying he's "still investigating," the head of the European Union's antitrust regulatory body has told the Financial Times that he's convinced Google is "diverting traffic" and that it will be forced to change its results. From the FT interview: “We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google] are diverting traffic,” Mr. Almunia told the Financial Times, referring to Google’s preferential treatment of its own vertical search services. That's Joaquin Almunia, who has been leading the EU's investigation into charges that Google is acting anti-competitively with it [...]

After Years Of Anti-Competitive Complaints Foundem Sues Google In UK Court

Foundem Bloomberg reports Google is yet again being sued, this time by UK's shopping search engine, for alleged anti-competitive practices. This comes a week after the FTC ruled that there is not enough evidence to prove search bias by Google in their search results. Foundem is seeking damages for revenue lost as a result of Google’s “anti- competitive conduct,” lawyers for Foundem said. “Since a lack of original content is an inherent characteristic of all search services, including Google’s own, that reason cannot justify” Google's actions, Foundem said in the U.K. lawsuit. The [...]

From Praise To Outrage: Reactions To Google’s Antitrust Settlement

Google & FTC The post-mortem analysis of Google's antitrust settlement happened very quickly yesterday and this morning with some journalists and analysts concluding that factors other than the law were responsible behind the scenes. For example, Politico asserts it was largely "a calculated and expensive charm offensive" (lobbying) that drove the outcome yesterday. An even more absurd analysis argues that Google is essential to US foreign policy and thus the FTC let the company off the hook. While Google lobbying may have had an impact, in reality the the facts and the law weren't on the FTC's sid [...]

FTC Closes Google Antitrust Case: “Law Protects Competition Not Competitors,” Not Enough Evidence To Prove “Search Bias”

google-legal-law-featured After 19 months of investigation, political maneuvering, lobbying and intense speculation the FTC has closed its antitrust investigation of Google. The outcome is almost exactly as we reported yesterday and it's probably legally correct. Google comes away largely unscathed from the process. Once can hear the celebrations getting started in Mountain View. The settlement has three components. Henceforth there will be no involuntary scraping of third party content for inclusion in "specialized" (vertical) Google search results (the Yelp case). Google will also enable easier exporting of AdW [...]

Report: Google Antitrust Settlement Coming Tomorrow, Opponents Frustrated With FTC

google-legal-cash-featured Much is already known about the contours of the likely antitrust settlement between Google and the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The terms of the settlement were previously "leaked" (intentionally or otherwise) a couple of weeks ago and critics quickly berated the FTC as having "rolled over." Broadly speaking, the rumors were that Google would make certain "voluntary changes" and avoid a consent decree (mostly) or any formal finding of antitrust violations. The settlement was supposedly to be announced in mid-to-late December but was delayed amid harsh criticism the FTC received follow [...]

FTC & EU Settlements On Google Anti-Trust Issues To Happen Next Month?

google-eu-featured The European Union appears to be closer to agreement with Google about anti-trust concerns relating to search, and action seems likely to happen in January. Meanwhile, the expected US Federal Trade Commission ruling that was supposed to happen before the end of this year now looks delayed into at least next month. Multiple sources are reporting that the EU and Google are nearing an agreement, with the matter to be settled in January. From Bloomberg: “I have decided to continue with the process towards reaching an agreement” to settle the investigation, [EU Competition Commissioner [...]

Reports Confirm Google To Escape FTC Antitrust Wrath

Confirming a report from the New York Post last week, the Wall Street Journal and Politico both published articles that said Google would emerge basically unscathed from the FTC's antitrust investigation. Google will apparently agree to make voluntary changes to various practices and will thus avoid having to sign a consent degree. The voluntary actions, according to the articles, would involve limiting use of third party content in some of Google's services (e.g., restaurant reviews) and to make it easier for AdWords campaigns to be transferred to competing platforms (i.e., adCenter). G [...]

US, European Antitrust Regulators To Confer On Google Case

google-legal-cash-featured According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the top two US and European antitrust regulators will meet in Europe next week to compare notes and discuss potential outcomes. Both are negotiating with Google to settle antitrust claims that would avoid formal legal action. The FTC's Chairman Jon Leibowitz will meet with the EU's Joaquin Almunia. The claims against Google on both sides of the Atlantic are similar, though not identical. In addition, European and American antitrust laws are different though they express the same overarching principles. The WSJ reported that any concessions made [...]

Curtain Rises On Act 3 Of Google Antitrust Drama As Larry Page Meets With FTC

Google CEO Larry Page met with representatives of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday, according to a Bloomberg report, as the company engages in antitrust-settlement talks to avert potential litigation. The article also says that formal settlement discussions have been going on for about a week. The Bloomberg piece also reports that the FTC "has told Google it won’t accept a resolution short of a consent decree." However Google doesn't want this outcome apparently because of the ongoing enforcement authority it would grant the agency. Neither Google nor the FTC truly want [...]

Report: FTC Likely To Abandon “Vertical Search” Antitrust Claims Against Google

google-ftc-featured There are now enough indications to suggest that any antitrust settlement between the FTC and Google -- and the FTC would much prefer to settle than test its case  in court -- won't involve "vertical search." An earlier Reuters report, probably resulting from an internal FTC leak, suggested that vertical search wasn't the core of the agency's case against Google. Today Bloomberg is reporting that the FTC is "wavering" on whether to pursue a formal action against Google. In particular the agency's own people (anonymous sources) suggest they can't make the "vertical search bias" claim stick [...]

Report: FTC Ready To Give Google Antitrust “Ultimatum”

google-legal-cash-featured According to a piece in the Wall Street Journal today and a parallel Bloomberg report Google faces an increasingly likely antitrust complaint unless the company steps up and offers some concessions (or additional concessions) in settlement discussions with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to Bloomberg, US FTC Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz is "pressing" Google to settle potential antitrust claims "in the next few days or face a formal complaint." This is according to "people familiar with the situation." The phrase "people familiar with the situation" suggests FTC employees who [...]

FTC Playing Antitrust Poker With Google And Looking For A Way To Save Face

Google & FTC Last week there was a report that "four out of five FTC commissioners" favored going forward with an antitrust case against Google. The Reuters article in which the claim appeared mentions but doesn't emphasize the litany of "vertical search" complaints against Google raised by competitors. Those "Google favors its own results" claims have been at the center of the European antitrust inquiry and, perhaps until now, at the heart of any potential US case against Google. Yet the article seems to suggest that the FTC is looking elsewhere for Google liability  -- or vulnerability. Reuters wr [...]

Report: Majority Of FTC Commissioners Want Antitrust Action Against Google, But Vertical Search Might Not Be Issue

Google & FTC Reuters is reporting that majority of those on the US Federal Trade Commission believe an antitrust case should be brought against Google. But if action comes, it doesn't seem likely to involve Google being found to "favor" its own "vertical" search engines like local or shopping over competing ones. Apparently four of the five FTC commissioners are now convinced that "Google illegally used its dominance of the search market to hurt its rivals." Another commissioner is not similarly convinced. The identities of the commissioners in favor of the action against Mountain View were not reveale [...]

Report: Google Seeks To Avoid EU’s Antitrust Wrath By “Labeling” Its Own Services

google-eu-featured The Financial Times (FT) is reporting that the thrust of Google's antitrust settlement proposal to European Competition Czar Joaquín Almunia primarily involves "labeling" its own services to distinguish them from other organic search results. According to the FT, citing "people familiar with the search giant's submission": Under the proposal, Google would put its brand on any of its own maps, stock quotes, airline flight details or other pieces of information returned with search results. It is an attempt to resolve regulators’ fears that Google is unfairly squeezing out other specialis [...]

FTC: We’ll Decide On Google-Antitrust Action By End Of Year

Google & FTC Speaking at an antitrust symposium sponsored by Georgetown Law School in Washington DC, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said that the commission was "on track" to decide on whether or not to pursue an antitrust case against Google "by the end of the year." In other words: after the election -- not that a decision would necessarily have an impact one way or the other. However, if the FTC were to bring a case before November it might be used as fodder for the critique that Washington is trying to get in the way of "job creating industries." Leibowitz is quoted by the NY Times saying at the even [...]

Seeking To Pressure Regulators, FairSearch Announces New Members, Issues Missive Seeking “Meaningful” Remedies

FairSearch logo If I were a betting person I'd say that the European Commission and FTC antitrust investigations against Google will wrap up without any major "structural" changes or dramatic new rules imposed on the company. Indeed there were premature reports that Google had already settled with the EU. An announcement of some sort is imminent I suspect. In the US a number of legal scholars (both independent and sponsored by Google) have come forward to argue that under the current antitrust framework Google would potentially win any case brought by the feds. In addition a new FTC nominee disfavors antit [...]

Google Doesn’t Require Google Search On Android, Despite What FairSearch & Microsoft Want You To Believe

android-featured Fairsearch, a group backed by Microsoft and other Google competitors to lobby that Google isn't "fair" to them with its search results, has been having a event today to push its view of all that's wrong with Google. That includes building a myth that Google requires that all Android devices to use Google search. Google doesn't do that. It never has. But that's a good story the group still wants to tell. The FairSearch Event Today's mythbuilding came out of a panel called "Tech Executives: Exploring Barriers to Innovation in Mobile and Online Services," part of the FairSearch "Searching for I [...]

FTC Nominee Says No To Google Antitrust Action, Anti-Google Voter Survey Argues Yes

Google & FTC As the FTC considers whether to brand Google a "monopoly" and initiate an antitrust action against the company, it appears new FTC nominee Joshua Wright, a law professor from George Mason University, is not among those who favor it. In addition to being nominated by President Obama, Wright is supported by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Politico points out that "Wright is also listed as a senior adjunct fellow for TechFreedom, a think tank that Google has listed as among the groups at which it sponsors policy fellows." Wright has also written reports and blog posts arguing the cas [...]

Google Wins Major Antitrust Victory In Brazil, Does It Foreshadow Broader EU & US Wins?

Buscape logo In addition to the various government antitrust investigations against Google going on around the world, there is a parallel world of private lawsuits by Google rivals and critics that make similar unfair competition or antitrust claims against Mountain View. They generally allege, among other things, that Google is unfairly referring traffic to its own "vertical sites" and thereby violating antitrust or fair competition rules. Comparable issues are at the heart of the European Comission's "four concerns" that are now the basis for antitrust settlement talks with Google. The same or similar [...]

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