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Google escapes FTC action despite 'aggressive actions' against rivals

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Thu Jan 03 2013, 19:43
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INTERNET ADVERTISING BROKER Google has escaped sanctions from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), however it has agreed to make changes in the level of access it will give to rivals and the way it licenses patents.

Google's industry rivals had been baying for its blood, with Microsoft being particularly vocal about the firm's alleged anti-competitive behaviour during the FTC's 19 month investigation of the firm. The FTC revealed the results of its investigation of and negotiations with Google today, with the advertising broker escaping a fine but agreeing to offer greater advertising flexibility, commit to fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing of certain patents and refrain from "misappropriating online content" from other websites on its own webpages.

While Google tried to put a positive spin on the FTC's investigation by claiming, "The conclusion is clear: Google's services are good for users and good for competition," the FTC spoke in an altogether different tone. The FTC said, "Undoubtedly, Google took aggressive actions to gain advantage over rival search providers," however the FTC continued by saying the evidence it obtained did not show that Google's actions were illegal or that it had acted to stifle competition.

As part of Google's deal with the FTC, the firm will license standards essential patents, specifically those obtained through its $12.5bn purchase of Motorola Mobility, under FRAND terms and the FTC said that the firm had agreed to drop actions at the US International Trade Commission to try to block imports of products that it claims infringe its patents. The company, through its Motorola Mobility subsidiary, had been trying to ban imports of Microsoft's Xbox 360 console for most of 2012.

Google also avoided any blowback from allegations of web search results bias, despite some companies claiming that Google pushes its own websites to the top of its search engine results. The FTC concluded that the firm's actions "could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google's product and the experience of its users" and decided to close that part of its investigation.

The FTC said that it was confident Google would implement the steps it had agreed to, adding that neither party wanted to go through another lengthy investigation. Given that Google didn't have to make any significant changes to its advertising or search operations, and merely agreed to offer the option to advertisers to export campaigns to other services, the internet advertising, search and services giant has come out of the FTC investigation with little damage. µ


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