Google Settles With FTC in Antitrust Case

U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz speaks during a news conference regarding the agency’s 21-month-long investigation on Google January 3. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On Thursday, Google settled with the Federal Trade Commission after a lengthy antitrust investigation, which ultimately ended in what some consider only a small wrist-slapping of the Internet search engine giant.

The agreement covers only some of the issues raised in a wide-ranging antitrust investigation that could have culminated in a regulatory crackdown that re-shapes Internet search, advertising and mobile computing.

After its nearly two-year investigation, the FTC didn’t find any reason to impose radical changes, to the relief of Google and technology trade groups worried about overzealous regulation discouraging future innovation.

Here’s what was included in Google’s deal with the FTC:

  • It agreed to charge “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” prices to license hundreds of patents deemed essential to the operations of mobile phones, tablet computers, laptops and video game players.
  • It would exclude snippets copied from other websites in capsules of key information shown in response to search requests.
  • It would alter its online advertising system so marketing campaigns can be more easily managed on rival networks.

Watch the FTC’s announcement of its decision Thursday:

One thing that has some consumer rights groups upset is that Google was not dinged for what some consider favoritism of some of its sites in searches.

Steve Pociask, president of the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, said in a statement that the FTC “letting Google off with a letter promising not to do it again is like believing Lindsey Lohan will stay out of trouble this time.”

“The FTC had a long list of grievances against Google to choose from when deciding if they unfairly used their dominance to crush their competitors yet they failed to use their authority for the betterment of the marketplace and to the advantage of consumers by declining to take action against the dominant company,” Pociask continued.

John Simpson with Consumer Watchdog told the Associated Press, “The FTC rolled over for Google.”

But even with these opinions, SlashGear indicated that the FTC’s investigation was “relentless,” just as was Google’s to fight back against claims against it. In its investigation, the FTC reviewed more than 9 million pages from documents submitted by Google and others, in addition to questioning those in the industry.

Google Settles With FTC in Antitrust Case

Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, preepares to testify before the US Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, during a hearing on Google’s business and privacy practices on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 21, 2011. (Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

“Some believe the commission should have done more in this case, perhaps because they are locked in a hand in hand combat with Google around the world,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement, according to SlashGear. “We really do follow the facts where they lead. The focus of our law is on protecting competition, not competitors.”

Part of Google’s success though, The Next Web pointed out, could be the $25 million in lobbying it conducted during the investigation.

“Google’s victory is almost banal, in a way, as it is sordidly normal; spend, and win. This is not to say that Google’s action were unethical in any way, they were in fact perfectly above board by our country’s current standards,” Alex Wilhelm for The Next Web wrote. “TNW’s repeated point that just as politics is becoming more technological, technology is becoming increasingly political has never felt more true than today.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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