Bloomberg reports today that the FTC is reconsidering some aspects of its ongoing antitrust investigation of Google. According to the story, agency officials are not certain of the legal strength of a claim that Google preferences its own products and services over those of its competitors. In addition to the legal hurdle, the officials are trying to figure out if such preferencing actually provides “benefits to consumers” that “outweigh any harm suffered by rivals.”
If this story is accurate, it’s a good sign. Companies like Microsoft, Yelp, Nextag, Foundem, and others have aggressively made their case, flawed as I think it is, not only to the FTC, but also to Congress and in academic and legal circles. The FTC has taken their claims seriously and investigated them. But these competitors have leveled many allegations that are either factually disputed or likely to benefit consumers and could not even amount to a claim under antitrust law.
If the FTC ultimately decides not to advance some claims, it is not for lack of taking allegations seriously. Google’s competitors have had a lot of time to make their case. Having now put it forward, they have revealed just how weak it really is.
Disclosure: As we always note, Google is a client of the firm. We have been retained by the company to advise on these issues. But here I do not speak for the company, only for myself.