FTC: Google Pushing Its Own Products in Search Results Is Fair Game

Another Big Win for Google in Washington

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Following what the Federal Trade Commission called an "exhaustive investigation into Google's business practices," the agency settled with the search giant in its antitrust investigation today.

Perhaps most important for digital marketers: the agency decided on a 5-0 vote that Google's prominent promotion of its own products and services in search results is not biased towards competitors.

In addition, the FTC said Google agreed to make it easier for advertisers to transfer Google AdWords campaigns via API to other competing platforms such as Microsoft's .

Google also agreed to no longer scrape content from other properties for inclusion in its own search results. Google was alleged to have grabbed content from other sites such as restaurant reviews site Yelp, leading consumers to believe the scraped content was Google's, said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz during a press conference about the settlement this afternoon.

The FTC's decision will result in a "fairer playing field in Internet search and search advertising," said Mr. Leibowitz.

Anti-Google coalition FairSearch.org disagreed. The trade collective includes several shopping and travel search firms along with other Google rivals, most notably Microsoft. The group yesterday said in a statement the FTC should not rush its decision on Google, and should wait until the European Commission decides in its own ruling on Google antitrust issues. European regulators are expected to take a stricter approach to 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," noted the organization in a statement sent to Ad Age today.

Google grabbed almost 75% of the $17.58 billion U.S. search ad market in 2011, according to eMarketer. Google controls more than half of the U.S. mobile ad market, too, representing a nearly 57% share, according to eMarketer.

Over the years, the FTC has inspected and approved deals that led to Google's growth, including its approved acquisition of ad management market leader DoubleClick in 2007 and its approved purchase of mobile ad network AdMob in 2010. The Department of Justice also took up an antitrust inspection into Google in 2008 when the firm attempted to align with Yahoo in a search ad pact. After the DOJ threatened a lawsuit against Google, the deal was tabled.

The FTC launched the Google antitrust investigation in June of 2011. In today's settlement, Commission also said Google agreed it will not prohibit competitors from licensing patents Google obtained through its acquisition of mobile device maker Motorola.

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