The New York Post is reporting that relatively soon, possibly as early as next week, the FTC is scheduled to announce a settlement of its antitrust investigation and potential claims against Google. The Post says that settlement will substantially let Google off the hook:
Federal regulators are expected to close a year-long probe of Google’s search business without finding any antitrust violations, The Post has learned.
The Federal Trade Commission is expected to announce before the end of the year that Google’s search engine did not cause any consumer harm or favor its own businesses, sources close to the situation said.
This comes as no surprise given many of the signals we’ve been getting over the past few months. In addition the FTC’s legal case against Google is harder than it may seem at first blush.
Recently the agency seems to have backed away from the “search bias” claims that are the major thrust of Google critics’ complaints against the company. The Post article suggests, however, that dissatisfied critics may now take their complaints to the Department of Justice.
Still, if the FTC essentially declines to pursue a case that will be potentially persuasive to the DOJ as well — though the agencies are rivals to some degree and the DOJ may want to make its own determination.
The anticipated FTC action may or may not align with what the Europeans are planning to do. A parallel investigation is underway in Europe with settlement talks between the EU and Google ongoing. Recently there have been some indications of “progress” in the discussions.
It’s more likely that we’ll see some sort of formal action from the Europeans, which have more flexibility and discretion and fewer legal hurdles to surmount in seeking to regulate or punish Google.