Department of Justice, State Attorneys General Must Press To End Search Bias
The Federal Trade Commission’s settlement with Google fails to end its most anticompetitive practice, Consumer Watchdog said today and the public interest group called on the Department of Justice and state attorneys general to press forward to end the Internet giant’s monopolistic behavior in search results.
“Google clearly skews search results to favor its own products and services while portraying the results as unbiased. That undermines competition and hurts consumers,” said John M. Simpson, director of the group’s Privacy Project. “The FTC rolled over for Google. They’ve accepted Google executives’ promises that they will change two practices without even requiring a consent agreement, but Google has a track record of broken promises. Don’t forget, this fall the FTC fined Google $22.5 million for violating its most recent consent agreement. Why would the FTC take Google at its word?”
The new Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, William J. Baer, should make Google’s abuse of search a top priority, Consumer Watchdog said.
The FTC’s settlement does require a consent agreement regarding so-called Standards Essential Patents held by Google’s Motorola subsidiary. Google is now required to license these patents to any company on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms – known as FRAND terms.
“This will help ensure competition in the manufacture of smartphones and tablets,” said Simpson, “but that was never the heart of the issue. Biased search and Google’s favoring its own properties do real consumer harm. Google is the gateway to the Internet for most people. When Google rigs the game, we all suffer. They need to be stopped.”
Consumer Watchdog expressed concern that FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who is expected to step down from the commission soon, may have rushed to finish the investigation so it could be concluded under his chairmanship.
The nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group noted that Google’s monopolistic business practices are under investigation by a number of state attorneys general including Texas, California, New York and Ohio. European Union competition officials are also investigating Google.