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Google Finds Support Against Possible FTC Antitrust Suit

Google Finds Support Against Possible FTC Antitrust Suit
November 20, 2012 10:33AM

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An expansion of FTC jurisdiction in the Google case would be "unwarranted, unwise and likely to have negative implications for our nation's economy," says a letter from two California congresswomen to the federal agency. Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren said an FTC antitrust suit against Google would overrreach the agency's authority.

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Google's competitors are circling like vultures as the Federal Trade Commission weighs whether or not to launch an antitrust suit against the technology giant. But Google has plenty of supporters, too.

The FTC hired an outside attorney earlier this year to decide whether to file antitrust charges against Google. The FTC expects to make its decision on a formal suit before the end of the year.

In a letter to the FTC, Rep. Anna Eshoo, ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives' Communications and Technology subcommittee, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said a massive expansion of FTC jurisdiction in the Google case would be "unwarranted, unwise and likely to have negative implications for our nation's economy."

Microsoft Group Opposes Google

The representatives contend that expanding FTC's Section 5 powers to include antitrust matters could lead to an overbroad authority that amplifies and stifles growth.

"These effects may be most acutely felt among online services, a crucial engine of job creation, where technological advancement and small business innovation are rapid," said the congresswomen, who represent the area surrounding Google's headquarters in California. "If the FTC indeed intends to litigate under this interpretation of Section 5, we strongly urge the FTC to reconsider."

But FairSearch, a group that includes Microsoft, Oracle, Nokia and various Internet brands, wants to see Google change its ways. FairSearch said antitrust enforcement officials should insist on effective remedies that address the fundamental conflict of interest driving Google's incentive and ability to engage in anti-competitive conduct.

"Enforcers must pursue remedies that are effective and enforceable with respect to each of these concerns. The remedies need to prevent violations in the future as well as to undo the harm to competition already inflicted by Google," FairSearch said in a statement.

"More generally, the enforcers need to consider restoring and preserving competition in search and search advertising (including Google's unlawfully acquired scale advantages), which can help ensure continued innovation and opportunity across online markets while reducing the need for competition agencies to monitor and enforce behavioral restrictions."

First Amendment Applies to Google

Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, said Google's critics contend that it's unfairly leveraging its search dominance to promote "it's own properties."

"This begs the question of whether Google is a single entity or a collection of various 'sites,' " Sterling told us. "Regardless, there is a legally supported argument, under the First Amendment, that Google is entitled to show whatever it wants in whatever order it wants. Google's competitors, and specifically Bing, do much the same thing.

"Google's most vocal critics also operate under a fundamental misunderstanding: that Google owes them a duty. Antitrust law seeks to protect competition in the market for the benefit of consumers, not individual competitors or companies."

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