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).
Google is also supposed to separately settle an investigation into its licensing of mobile patents (mostly acquired with Motorola Mobility). In that case, which sources say will involve a consent degree, Google has pledged to “curtail using key patents . . . to block competitors infringing those patents from getting their products to the market,” writes Politico.
Google critics such as attorney Gary Reback and persistent anti-Google crusader Scott Cleland are faulting the FTC investigation as deficient or too passive in various ways, ahead of any formal settlement announcement. Reback is quoted by the WSJ saying that the FTC wasn’t sufficiently thorough:
Among other things, Mr. Reback said the agency didn’t seek to obtain certain company documents that Google has said are off limits, or privileged.
He said some clients of his that complained about Google’s behavior were never interviewed by the agency after providing numerous documents alleging wrongdoing. “The FTC rolled over,” he said.
The NY Post article last week suggested that if the FTC does as expected and doesn’t pursue a formal antitrust case that Google opponents might seek to turn to the Department of Justice as an alternative “venue” for their grievances.