FTC search inquiry clears Google
Google is free to extend its dominance of the $50 billion internet-search market after US regulators ended an investigation into whether the company unfairly disadvantaged competing websites by favouring its own services in search results.
The Federal Trade Commission, after a 20-month anti-trust investigation, concluded that Google was motivated more by wanting to improve its search results and the user’s experience than by a desire to stifle competition, said chairman Jon Leibowitz, who drew a distinction between dominating a market and doing so unfairly.
The FTC investigation looked into allegations that Google manipulated its search algorithms to promote its own products and services, harming competitors and consumers.
While some evidence suggested Google was trying to eliminate competition, its “primary reason” for changing the look and feel of search results was to improve user experience, Mr Leibowitz said at a news conference in Washington yesterday.
The agency’s decision to conclude its investigation without enforcement action is a blow to competitors including Microsoft, Yelp and Expedia. An alliance of ecommerce and web-search companies had pressed the FTC to bring an antitrust lawsuit.
Google made some concessions, agreeing in a letter to the FTC to let websites remove their content from focused search services like Google Shopping or Google Local without removing or demoting that content in the main Google search engine.
Advertisers will also be able to compare data from other search engines within third-party services that use Google’s AdWords software, Google said in a blog post yesterday.
The global internet search market is expected to grow to more than $50 billion this year, up 15 per cent from the same period a year ago, ZenithOptimedia, an advertising research unit of Paris-based Publicis Groupe, said in a report last year. – (Bloomberg)