Google can face another legal battle against FTC

Google is facing another rough time ahead as the United States Federal Trade Commission thinks Google has intentionally violated the antitrust law, Reuters said.

The majority of the commissioners for FTC believe that the search engine giant has abused its power to relegate its rivals to the sidelines in the search engine market. Only one commissioner is skeptical about Google’s illegal actions after a year of investigation into the case.

Three people familiar with the case confirmed to Reuters that FTC will most likely file a case against Google because of the investigation. They asked not to be named to protect working ties.

Two of the sources said that a case to be brought against Google may come as early as November or December.

The FTC has received a long list of companies complaining about the supposedly illegal practice of Google.

Although companies usually keep their transactions with the FTC private, Yelp, a consumer reviews website, and Nextag, a shopping website, have publicly criticized Google during open hearings in Congress.

Websites specializing in travel, entertainment, and shopping, have filed a complaint against Google of ranking their websites low in the search rankings so consumers will not visit their websites and use similar products that Google have interests in.

Consumers are more likely to click on the top yield of the search results. Low ranked websites are forced to buy more ads on Google to improve their search result rankings, a source added.

Google denied the allegations all the time.

“We are happy to answer any questions that regulators have about our business, ” Google spokesperson Niki Fenwick said when asked about the possible FTC case. The FTC did not give any comment at all.

Eric Schmidt, Google Executive, denied any wrongdoing of this company in 2011 by saying to Congress: “May I simply say that I can assure you we’ve not cooked anything.”

One of the sources also said that Google did not allow to share data that would let developers and advertisers to build a software that would help them see the value they get on Google on the amount in advertising when compared with Yahoo or Bing.

The FTC is also looking at how Google handles patents believe to be essential to smartphones. The agency would like to see if the license for such patents were given fairly or whether or not patent infringement lawsuits are being used to stifle innovation.

The FTC, led by Jon Leibowitz, announced last September that a decision about the case will be announced sometime by the end of the year. Google is also facing probes in Europe for a similar case.

Google can strike a compromise with the FTC that can resolve the issue but if negotiations fail, the case will go for a certain period that can spell lengthy expensive legal battle.

Last April, the FTC announced that it was hiring the high-profile lawyer Beth Wilkinson to head the investigation. Observers see the move as an introduction for FTC to file a legal complaint against Google.

If pushed through, this will not be the first wrangling with Google against the agency.

The search giant paid $22.5 million in damages last August after it failed to convince the court that it did not bypass the privacy settings of customers running Apple’s Safari browser.

source: reuters

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