Report: Google and FTC Close to Settlement in Antitrust Case

Unnamed sources say Google will avoid signing a consent decree.


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Posted December 17, 2012

Cynthia Harvey

"People familiar with the matter" are telling numerous news outlets that Google and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are close to reaching an agreement that would end the commission's antitrust investigation into Google's search practices. Under the terms of the deal, Google will voluntarily change some of its practices but will not sign a consent decree, which would make the agreement more formal.

The Washington's Post's Craig Timberg reported, "Google and the Federal Trade Commission are on the verge of a deal that would end a nearly two-year-old investigation into allegations of monopolistic behavior by implementing concessions that fall far short of what the company’s rivals have sought, said people familiar with the negotiations. Under the deal, which still ­requires the approval of the five-member commission, Google would agree to new limits on its ability to use snippets of content from other Web sites and would agree to make it easier for marketers to transfer their online ads to other services. But there would no action by the FTC on persistent claims that Google uses its power over the search market to hurt rival companies and give advantage to its own online services."

Fox News added, "The U.S. Federal Trade Commission could agree to end its investigation as soon as this week, in response to several voluntary changes that Google will agree to make to its search practices to satisfy some of the agency's concerns, according to one of the people briefed on the matter. That would mean Google wouldn't have to sign a so-called consent decree, a formal settlement with the agency in which the company would agree to certain terms, said the people familiar with the probe.

Bloomberg's Sara Forden observed, "An end to the probe without enforcement action would be a blow to competitors including Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Yelp Inc., and Expedia Inc. An alliance of such e-commerce and Web-search companies have pressed the agency to act, claiming Google’s dominance of Internet search combined with favoring its own services in answers to queries violates antitrust laws."

Politico's Elizabeth Wasserman noted, "The FTC is also preparing to enter into a settlement with Google on a related case over how the company uses its acquired stockpile of patents against competitors, as POLITICO reported last week. Under the patent agreement, Google will curtail using key patents it picked up when it purchased Motorola Mobility to block competitors infringing those patents from getting their products to the market, although there are exceptions, sources said."

Tags: Google, search, antitrust, patent, FTC

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