Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

Editor: D. Daniel Sokol
University of Florida
Levin College of Law

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Google: The Unique Case of the Monopolistic Search Engine

Posted by D. Daniel Sokol

Albert A. Foer and Sandeep Vaheesan (AAI) present Google: The Unique Case of the Monopolistic Search Engine.

ABSTRACT: In early January, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) closed its nearly two-year investigation into Google's conduct. Unanimously, the Commissioners stated that Google's alleged favouring of its own vertical search features in search results was not an antitrust violation. They found that changes to Google's search algorithm were intended to offer more informative search results. The FTC acknowledged that modifications of Google's algorithm deprived some vertical search sites of traffic, but stated that harm to competitors is a ‘common byproduct of “competition on the merits”’. Responding to other allegations, Google agreed voluntarily to stop appropriating content from vertical search engines and allow online advertisers greater flexibility to manage concurrent ad campaigns on multiple search engines. Investigations into Google's practices continue in other jurisdictions, including the European Commission (EC) and the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC). Given the high level of cooperation between these authorities in the Google matter, it seems unlikely that the pending investigations will reach significantly different results. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the EC will legally require Google to label its own vertical features and display rival vertical sites in search results, which would go further but still not be dramatically different from Google's voluntary pledges to the FTC.

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