January 3, 2013
FTC Expected To Announce Agreement With Google This Week
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
The FTC is expected this week to finally bring an end to a long-standing investigation of Google´s business decisions in both their mobile and search engine activities. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is pushing to make this decision before one of the five commissioners assigned to this case leaves office.
Insiders have said that Google is expected to sign a voluntary agreement and a consent decree on their alleged misuse of patents. This decision is two-fold, dealing in part with the way Google arranges results in their search engine as well as how they license out their mobile patents to other companies. Though such a decision would bring an end to a twenty-month probe into Google´s actions, some companies and watchdog groups are saying the FTC is being far too lenient with the search engine giant.
In June of 2011, the FTC launched their investigation into how Google handles their search results. It had been suggested that Google was beginning to place their own products and services at the top of search results, leaving out other companies or asking them to pay more.
Some of Google´s critics, such as Expedia and Microsoft, claim that Google also used their content without permission. They also allege that Google has made a habit of simply buying any other company that might threaten their dominion in the realm of Internet searches. Furthermore, Microsoft claimed Google began charging them more to run ads for hotmail, a rival to Google´s own Gmail.
Bloomberg News is now reporting that Google is ready to make “voluntary changes to some of its business practices” where it pertains to listing search results. The Android maker has also been accused of using their patent war chest (particularly their recently acquired Motorola Mobility patents) to keep other smartphone competitors, namely Microsoft, at bay.
Microsoft´s vice president and deputy general counsel Dave Heiner had plenty of criticism about Google´s recent business decisions, saying in a blog post: “You might think that Google would be on its best behavior given it´s under the bright lights of regulatory scrutiny on two continents, particularly as it seeks to assure antitrust enforcers in the US and Europe that it can be trusted on the basis of non-binding assurances that it will not abuse its market position further.”
“We continue to be dogged by an issue we had hoped would be resolved by now,” continued Heiner. “Google continues to prevent Microsoft from offering consumers a fully featured YouTube app for the Windows Phone.”
Google has also been undergoing an investigation for similar charges by the European Union.
FairSearch.org, a coalition which includes Expedia and Microsoft, has also been an outspoken critic of the FTC´s seeming willingness to let Google slide. In a statement, the watchdog group said: “If the FTC fails to take decisive action to end Google´s anti-competitive practices, and locks itself out of any remedies to Google´s conduct that are offered in Europe later this month, the FTC will have acted prematurely and failed in its mission of protecting America´s consumers.”
Though the FTC is expected to announce this agreement this week, many of the details are still up in the air and could change before an official announcement is made.