FTC Might Not Let Google Off The Hook So Easily After All


Just days after it was leaked that Google had come to an arrangement with the Federal Trade Commission that would see it let off the hook for its apparent ‘search bias’, reports are now emerging that the antitrust case isn’t quite so clear cut as it first seemed.

The FTC was thought to have agreed to go easy on Google in return for it agreeing not to scrape content from other sites, but now Bloomberg  is reporting that the investigation will continue into the new year. Previously, the FTC had always expressed its determination to tie up the case before the end of the year.

However, it might have been influenced by events in Europe, where lawmakers from the European Commission appear to have had far more success in getting what they want out of Google.

There, following a meeting with Eric Schmidt earlier today, EC competition chief Joaquin Almunia released a statement saying that he expects to reach a settlement with Google soon. It’s believed that the search engine has largely acquiesced to the tough stance taken by the EC, and will submit a “detailed commitment text” next month. Following this, the EC said it hopes to reach a binding agreement with Google that would also remedy its alleged search engine bias.

Could it be that the FTC is now looking at this and thinking “where are our own concessions?”

The first deal with Google was a pretty weak one – and one that infuriated rivals like Microsoft and Ask.com – and so it figures that the FTC might suddenly have decided to have a rethink. The proposal was apparently put forward voluntarily by Google, was supposedly non-binding, and failed to address the most important allegations against it – namely, that of its search engine bias.

Now with the EC having extracted far greater concessions from Google than those it volunteered by itself, the FTC has been left looking rather weak in comparison, and may feel it has no choice but to toughen its own stance.

Where the FTC goes from here is anyone’s guess. Google will likely budge a little bit more if its European negotiations are any kind of yardstick to go by, but the FTC is still feeling some pressure to conclude matters as soon as possible, and so the search company may feel it can hold out for a better deal in the US than it got in Europe.