According to a recently unearthed 160-page report, officials at the Federal Trade Commission concluded in 2012 that Google used anti-competitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and competing companies, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The FTC report, done by the agency's bureau of competition, recommended legal action challenging three Google practices. A lawsuit could have resulted in one of the highest-profile antitrust cases since the Justice Department sued Microsoft in the 1990s. FTC commissioners voted unanimously in early 2013 to end the investigation after Google agreed to voluntarily change its practices.
The critique was supposed to remain private but was inadvertently disclosed in an open-records request.
As to whether Google used anti-competitive tactics for its search engine, the FTC’s competition staff recommended against a lawsuit, although it said Google’s actions resulted in significant harm to rivals. In three other areas, the report found evidence the company used its monopoly behavior to help its own business and hurt its rivals. The report runs counter to Google’s contention that the FTC had found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Embedded in the report and its footnotes are several previously unknown details about Google’s business, many of which come from senior officials such as Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, former executive Marissa Mayer and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Data in the report demonstrate Google might have been more dominant in the U.S. Internet search market than was previously thought. The company estimated its market share at between 69 percent and 84 percent during a period when research firm comScore put it at 65 percent.
Google issued a statement in response to the report being made public.
"Speculation about potential consumer and competitor harm turned out to be entirely wrong," said Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, in the statement. "Since the investigation closed two years ago, the ways people access information online have increased dramatically, giving consumers more choice than ever before."
Could Embolden Competitors
The emergence of the report could mean a new round of complaints from Google competitors such as Yelp, which has alleged that Google still engages in anti-competitive behavior. It could also mean renewed focus by antitrust authorities in Europe, who are pursuing their own look into Google.
"This shows the FTC had direct evidence of intentional search bias by Google," Luther Lowe, Yelp’s vice president for public policy, told The Wall Street Journal. "With the FTC agreeing to a weak settlement against the recommendation of professional staff, this anti-consumer behavior has been effectively green-lighted in the United States."
In its investigation, FTC staff said Google’s conduct “helped it to maintain, preserve and enhance Google’s monopoly position in the markets for search and search advertising” in violation of the law. Google has long disputed any characterization that it is a monopoly.
The report said Google illegally took content from rival Web sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon to improve its own Web sites.
Posted: 2015-03-21 @ 6:09pm PT
Of course, Google, always Google... What about Apple, Microsoft, and others ??? Google has this monopoly because Google deserves it. Good products and services, improved and reliable. If it was not the case, do you think that Google could stay so competitive since now 15 years??? Get some clues, haters !