Google Agrees to Change Its Business Practices to Resolve FTC Investigation

After a 19 month investigation, the Federal Trade Commission announced that Google isn’t breaking any antitrust laws. The investigation focused in Google’s search engine, the heart of its business.

The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it will end its 19-month investigation of questioning Google’s business practices.

According to the New York Times:

Companies that rely on Google to drive traffic to their sites have complained that Google adjusts its search algorithm to favor its own growing number of commerce sites — including shopping, local listings and travel.But the [FTC] faced an uphill battle in proving malicious intent — that Google changes its search algorithm to purposely harm competitors and favor itself. Antitrust lawyers say anticompetitive behavior cannot be proved simply by showing that a change in the algorithm affects other Web sites and causes sites to show up lower in results, even though studies have shown that users rarely look beyond the first page of search results.”

Google posted about the FTC’s findings in its own blog, stating that the company will be making two large voluntary changes:

• Websites can opt out of Google Search (which they already can) and now remove content from specialized search pages.

• Advertisers can export ad campaigns, which they already can, from Google AdWords. Now, advertisers can mix and copy ad campaign data within 3rd party services that use the AdWords API.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said, “The changes Google has agreed to make will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of competition in the online marketplace and in the market for innovative wireless devices they enjoy. This was an incredibly thorough and careful investigation by the Commission, and the outcome is a strong and enforceable set of agreements.”

The FTC concluded that Google can continue business because of the low barriers to entry in the search business. Companies such as Duck Duck Go have seen recent success being a Google competitor.

Google Press ConferenceOpening Remarks of Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz

Statement of the Federal Trade Commission In the Matter of Google Inc.