Competition / Antitrust Regulation

Google Survives US Investigations – EU Investigates Further

10 Jan 2013

2 min read

The software giant Google has recently come under scrutiny from both the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the European Union Commission for suspected anti-competitive behaviour. It was initially being suspected that Google was doctoring search results in a manner that would prejudice its competitors.

The US regulator recently concluded that this was not the case, although it has received promises from Google that it would no longer “scrape” reviews and other forms of data from the websites of rivals for its own products. This practice is considered highly unethical. Google further promised to allow advertisers to export data to independently evaluate advertising campaigns.

Arguably the most significant agreement between Google and the FTC was that it will no longer call for sales bans when suing entities infringing on patents which are held essential for the purpose of interoperability. These are generally called “Standard Essential Patents”.

The FTC was recently under pressure by Microsoft Corp. and other competitors to bring a class action against Google on the basis of antitrust similar to the sweeping Justice Department litigation against Microsoft of the 1990’s.

The EU Commission’s investigation remains on-going. On the 18th December 2012, the Commission gave Google a period of one month to put forward proposals to resolve the investigation. The Commission has been examining similar such proposals since July 2012 but remains unmoved by the proposals tabled so far.

If the situation persists, Google could find itself on the receiving end of an action in the European Court of Justice for breach of Competition law. Such actions can result in penalties for significant amounts.

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