Update: The FTC has reached a fair settlement agreement with Google without going through the unnecessary time and expense of court. “[Google] agreed to a legal settlement on patents that Jon Leibowitz, the commission chairman, called a “landmark enforcement action” that applies to huge high-tech markets like smartphones and tablet computers.” It is pleasing to see efficiency and equity in any bureaucratic process, especially when it comes to dealing with one of the United State’s gem corporate entities. This case is closed and justice has been served for all parties concerned.
Recent news reports have indicated the Federal Trade Commission and Google are close to announcing resolution settling a two year long antitrust investigation of the internet search engine’s digital marketing conduct. Google was set to make enforceable commitments satisfying the results the complainants were looking for. However, Google’s competitors have mounted serious push back on the agreement that may have caused the resolution to be delayed, potentially risking expensive and time consuming litigation.
The question is why? FTC Chairman Leibowitz appears to have developed a smart, fast, and flexible approach to antitrust enforcement without getting bogged down in lengthy litigation. Further, the FTC seemed to secure several important and substantive wins on patents, website opt-outs, advertiser portability, and search transparency.
According to press reports, it looks like the FTC secured certain enforceable commitments from Google. If Google were to fail to live up to its public commitments, the FTC could then take punitive action against Google. Google’s reported commitments on snippets (Yelp and TripAdvisor) and the AdWords API (Microsoft) are exactly what the complainants were seeking.
The FTC certainly should hold corporations accountable, and they have done just that by investigating Google’s actions for 18 months and finding an end result that was enforceable. The fact that critics aren’t happy with the settlement shows that they weren’t really interested in results but rather tying Google up in a lengthy lawsuit. It’s sad that Microsoft and other unnamed sources have tried to spin these results in the press as weak and overly friendly to Google. Their powerful lobbyists shouldn’t be allowed to derail a balanced resolution.
There are plenty of real “bad guys” out there that frankly government doesn’t do a good job holding accountable. It’s important that time and resources aren’t wasted going after the good guys who are more than willing to comply with equitable solutions.
At the end of the day, Google should be allowed to focus on innovation and growing their business, not wasting time and resources fighting unnecessary battles in court and dealing with the FTC when they are willing to make enforceable commitments.
It is very important that the FTC set a precedent of dealing quickly, efficiently and equitably in these matters by moving forward with this settlement with Google. It couldn’t be any more important than when it comes to dealing with the tech sector where things change so quickly. Going forward such an approach will be in the best interest of tax payers, not to mention for innovation in the marketplace.
Justin is the publisher The Nevada View, which has earned the recognition in the Washington Post’s “Best State-Based Political Blogs,” as well as being awarded the “Most Valuable Blogger Award” by the local CBS affiliate in 2011. Follow him on Twitter @McAffee