US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) officials concluded in 2012 that Google employed anti-competitive practices and abused its monopoly, according to a report recently brought to light and about which WSJ reported.
The Journal, which accessed a report by the FTC’s bureau of competition, said on Thursday that FTC officials recommended filing a lawsuit against Google for anti-competitive practices. The lawsuit, which never materialized, would have become one of the biggest anti-trust cases since the Justice Department sued Microsoft Corp. in the 1990s. The recommendations were in stark contrast to the decision of five FTC commissioners, who voted unanimously in 2013 to end the investigation against Google after the latter voluntarily agreed to implement certain changes in its practices.
According to the Journal, the recommendations of FTC staff have great influence on the commissioners. The recommendations are also kept private and never published but this report was accidentally leaked during the disclosure of other documents. When voting was conducted in 2013, the FTC commissioners faced conflicting suggestions including a separate report from the economic bureau that recommended against suing Google. When the Commission decided in favour of Google, then FTC president Jon Leibowitz had said in a statement that Google voluntarily agreeing upon the changes was the best possible option.
Google general counsel Kent Walker said in a statement on Thursday that “after an exhaustive 19-month review, covering nine million pages of documents and many hours of testimony, the FTC staff and all five commissioners agreed that there was no need to take action on how we rank and display search results”. “Since the investigation closed two years ago, the ways people access information online have only increased, giving consumers more choice than ever before,” Walker added.
The report also claimed that Google’s conduct “helped to entrench Google’s monopolypower over search and search advertising”, which is in violation of the law. Google’s conduct will have long-lasting negative impact on consumer welfare, according to the report. The Journal pointed out that the report could lead Google’s competitors to raise new complaints and an increase in pressure by European authorities on Google, which has its headquarters in Mountain View, California.