The Google-FTC deal the day after

We’re rounding up key reaction and follow-up the day after the Google-FTC settlement, in which Google agreed to change some practices but emerges largely unscathed and avoids an antitrust trial:

• Google played the political game all the way to victory. “It was a multiyear campaign focused on this very moment, knowing as the company grew these issues were going to come up. We had the benefit of watching those who had come before us,” Alan Davidson, former head of Google’s office in Washington, told Politico, which says the Silicon Valley giant spent about $25 million on lobbying. The company did everything from make its top executives accessible to enlisting both liberal academics and conservative think tanks to help influence the public’s perception, including hiring a former FTC patent expert.

• Speaking of those who came before Google, Microsoft — which in the late 1990s was hit with a U.S. antitrust lawsuit that some say weakened it, and in the past couple of years has led the complaining against Google’s business practices — has elaborated about its disagreement with the settlement in a blog post by Dave Heiner, deputy general counsel. “The FTC’s overall resolution of this matter is weak and — frankly — unusual,” Heiner writes. He says he doubts Google will “recognize its responsibilities as an industry leader” as “we and so many others experience ongoing harm to competition in the marketplace.”

Other Google rivals are speaking up. The deal “represents a missed opportunity to protect innovation in the Internet economy, and the consumers and businesses that rely upon it,” Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said, according to CNet. As part of the settlement, Google agreed not to “scrape” content from competitors and use it to improve its products. Yelp has long complained about Google’s treatment of its online reviews. (See Quoted: Upon further review, Yelp unhappy with Google Places.)

• Meanwhile, Google is obviously pleased. “The conclusion is clear: Google’s services are good for users and good for competition,” Chief Legal Officer David Drummond writes in a blog post. Drummond also pointed to other decisions that looked at Google’s business practices and have gone the company’s way, including the Justice Department review of its purchase of travel software maker ITA.

• But Google isn’t completely off the hook everywhere. Both Microsoft and Yelp said they are looking to the Europeans to be tougher on Google than the United States was. The Europeans say their two-year-long investigation is unaffected by the U.S. government’s decision, with an EU spokesman telling Reuters that discussions with and the investigation of Google is ongoing. The Telegraph reported last month that Joaquín Almunia, the vice-president of the European Commission, has already reached the conclusion that Google has abused its dominance in search and has already asked the company to make changes. In September, the New York Times reported that without a settlement, Google was subject to be fined as much as 10 percent of its revenue, or about $4 billion.


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  • sean

    The irony…of Microsoft looking to regulators for relief especially European ones). Roll countless previous quotes from MS about how the courtroom is the arena ‘for those who’ve lost in the marketplace’.