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FTC Clears Google in Anti-Trust Ruling

9 Jan, 2013 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – Google is breathing a sigh of relief after a 20-month Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation found it had not violated antitrust laws by promoting its own services in its search results.

Chairman Jon Leibowitz said last week that the FTC found that Google's main reason for touting its own offerings in search results was "to improve the user experience," versus harming potential competitors. "While Google’s prominent display of its own vertical search results on its search results page had the effect in some cases of pushing other results 'below the fold,' the evidence suggests that Google’s primary goal in introducing this content was to quickly answer, and better satisfy, its users’ search queries by providing directly relevant information," the FTC added in a written statement about Google's search practices.

But FairSearch, a Microsoft-backed organization, called the FTC's decision "disappointing and premature" and "by no means the last word in this case." FairSearch added that that European authorities and state attorneys general are still investigating Google.

"The FTC’s inaction on the core question of search bias will only embolden Google to act more aggressively to misuse its monopoly power to harm other innovators," the group said in a statement.

Google has agreed to make minor changes to its services and promised to let companies opt out of appearing in the vertical search engines – like Google Local – but still show up in the general search results.

Google also promised to make it easier for companies to run simultaneous campaigns on its own service than those of competitors. That concession resolved concerns about whether Google unfairly restricted small businesses from using third-party tools to manage ad campaigns on Google and competitors.

In another part of the FTC's investigation that focused on patents Google acquired when it bought Motorola Mobility last year, enforcement action did occur. The FTC said Google unfairly excluded competitors from using some of those patents, which cover the technology used to make smartphones, tablets and other devices. Google agreed to settle those allegations by promising to allow competitors access to the patents.

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