Antitrust Law

'Murky' Consumer Harm Standard Undermined FTC's Google Probe

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The Federal Trade Commission has closed its probe of Google with a determination it would take no legal action over search engine results that highlight the company’s own services.

The search engine issue was a key part of the probe, report the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press. While Google prevailed there, it did agree to charge fair prices to license patents needed to operate electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets. The company also agreed to remove, upon request, snippets of information in its search results that are copied from other websites.

According to the Post, the FTC’s scrutiny of Google’s manipulation of search results was undermined by “murky standards for establishing consumer harm.” The issue is whether consumers have suffered, a standard that has “long been the quicksand in the middle of U.S. antitrust cases,” the story says.

A separate story by the New York Times makes a similar point. The FTC found that Google’s search results may have hurt competitors, but it did not harm consumers who clicked on the search engine’s highlighted products, the story says.

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