January 4, 2013 in Business

Google to alter search practices

Online giant’s rivals unhappy with federal antitrust probe settlement
Jessica Guynn Los Angeles Times
 

LOS ANGELES – Google reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission to make voluntary changes to its search practices to put an end to a 19-month antitrust probe, the FTC announced Thursday.

Google also has settled an investigation into its handling of mobile technology patents that it acquired when it bought Motorola Mobility.

The settlement brings to a close one of the FTC’s most closely watched investigations. Google still faces antitrust investigations by European regulators and some U.S. state attorneys general. Google is expected to offer concessions to resolve the European Union probe later this month.

Google agreed to give marketers more control over their ads. It also agreed to limit its use of snippets or reviews and other content from rivals, a practice that it had already moved away from.

It also resolved a separate antitrust case involving Google’s use of patents to attempt to keep competitors from using mobile technology.

“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.

But competitors don’t see it that way. That the Internet search giant is emerging largely unscathed from the antitrust probe frustrated competitors, including software giant Microsoft, which had its own yearslong battle with antitrust regulators in the late 1990s and 2000s just as Google began its rise to dominance in online search.

Microsoft, which runs the Bing search engine, has accused Google of abusing that dominance, harming consumers and competitors. It has railed against the FTC for doing nothing to rein in Google’s growing monopoly on the Web.

Google handles about two-thirds of all U.S. Web searches, according to research firm ComScore Inc. It handles more than 80 percent in much of Europe. The software giant has mounted campaigns to condemn Google’s business practices. Smaller competitors have also complained that Google search results unfairly promote links to its own business listings, Google+ social network and other online services.

Google has maintained that it has done nothing wrong.


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