The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) decision to close its investigation of Google with only voluntary commitments from Google is "disappointing and premature," FairSearch said in a statement.
FairSearch, a non profit concerned with online competition, said the move came just weeks before the company is expected to make a formal and detailed proposal to resolve European Commission (EC) objections. The EC cited four abuses of market dominance, including biased display of its own properties in search results.
"The FTC’s settlement is by no means the last word in this case, leaving the FTC without a major role in the final resolution to the investigations of Google’s anti-competitive practices by state attorneys general and the European Commission. The FTC’s inaction on the core question of search bias will only embolden Google to act more aggressively to misuse its monopoly power to harm other innovators," FairSearch said.
The FTC said in a statement that Google Inc. has agreed to change some of its business practices to resolve FTC concerns that Google practices could stifle competition in the markets for popular devices such as smart phones, tablets and gaming consoles, as well as the market for online search advertising.
Under a settlement reached with the FTC, Google will meet its prior commitments to allow competitors access – on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms – to patents on critical standardized technologies needed to make popular devices such as smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and gaming consoles.
The FTC also said Google has agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on Google’s AdWords platform and on rival ad platforms; and to refrain from misappropriating online content from so-called “vertical” websites that focus on specific categories such as shopping or travel for use in its own vertical offerings.
“The changes Google has agreed to make will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of competition in the online marketplace and in the market for innovative wireless devices they enjoy,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
Google is a global technology company with more than 32,000 employees and annual revenues of nearly $38 billion. The FTC conducted an investigation into allegations that Google biased its search results to disadvantage certain vertical websites and that Google entered into anticompetitive exclusive agreements for the distribution of Google Search on both desktop and in the mobile arena.
FairSearch noted: "State attorneys general who reportedly disagreed with today’s announcement by the FTC have an important role to play in ensuring both that Google is not allowed to continue practices that hurt every American business through artificially high advertising costs, and to demand that whatever changes Google is forced to make in Europe also apply for U.S. consumers who risk losing innovation because of Google’s aggressive abuse of its dominance," FairSearch said in its statement.
FairSearch said it will continue working with authorities in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere who are investigating Google. "Our members also plan to participate in the European Commission’s market testing of any proposed binding remedies to Google’s harms."
FairSearch said it will continue to fight to restore truly competitive conditions to the market for search and related online services. "No less than the future of innovation and small business on the Internet is at stake," FairSearch said.