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FTC to Drop Vertical Search Antitrust Case Against Google? No Consumer Harm Found

James Dohnert
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google-logo-magnifying-glassFederal Trade Commission (FTC) officials are reportedly thinking of dropping their antitrust case against Google, Bloomberg reports. The FTC reportedly plans to drop the case because it doesn't have the evidence needed to prove that the way Google ranks its search results is hurting consumers.

News of the FTC's possible decision comes following recent reports saying that the FTC was pleading with Google to arrive at a settlement.

The FTC has enough evidence to prove that Google ranks its services higher than those of its competitors. However, the FTC is reportedly unable to prove that Google's "vertical searches" actually hurt consumers, Bloomberg reported.

While its being reported that the FTC doesn't have enough evidence to penalize Google, some advocacy groups insist consumers are being harmed.

Ben Hammer, a spokesperson with industry advocacy group FairSearch.org, said the FTC need only to look at recent comments from European Commission vice chairman Joaquin to see that Google's search results are hurting the industry.

"As European Commission vice chairman Joaquin Almunia has indicated publicly, the evidence clearly shows Google's search bias and manipulation of the display of results in favour of its own products and away from other services is a violation of global competition laws," Hammer said. "The question now is whether authorities will hold Google to its legal obligations or endorse its anti-competitive conduct through inaction. The members of FairSearch will view any resolution to the investigations of Google that does not permanently end its preferences for its own products as incomplete in restoring a truly competitive landscape to search and related Internet services."

The report comes following recent cries from U.S. politicians who are calling on the FTC to call off its pursuit of Google. South Carolina's Republican Senator Jim DeMint recently wrote a letter to the FTC arguing that Google should be left alone during the currently difficult economic climate.

"FTC actions should primarily respond to demonstrated consumer harm. When actions are taken, better guidance for industry and consumers would provide more certainty for innovators and job creators," DeMint wrote in his letter. "Today, we ask the FTC to operate with humility rather than experimentation with their existing authorities. There is simply too much uncertainty facing private enterprise, and agencies must do their part to create a climate for recovery and growth."

Earlier this month, it was also reported that FTC chairman Jonathan Leibowitz was pushing Google to accept a settlement agreement with the FTC. Last September, Leibowitz said he expected the Google investigation to wrap up sometime before 2013.

This article was originally published on V3.


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