In a unanimous decision, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Thursday that it has reached a settlement agreement with Google (News - Alert) in which the Internet company will make voluntary changes to its search practices. Google has also settled an investigation into its handling of mobile patents acquired early last year from Motorola (News - Alert) Mobility.
The settlement puts an end to a near 20-month antitrust probe, although Google still faces antitrust investigations from European regulators.
At the forefront of the investigation were claims that Google had been unfairly abusing its position on the Internet by highlighting Google-owned services at the top of its search results. Being ranked higher on Google can deliver a large amount of traffic and revenue for websites. Two-thirds of all United States search queries are made through Google.
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Jon Leibowitz (News - Alert), chairman of the FTC, said that while not everything Google did was beneficial, the government agency did not believe that the evidence it had supported a challenge to the search aspect of Google’s business.
"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," said Leibowitz. “This was an incredibly thorough and careful investigation by the commission, and the outcome is a strong and enforceable set of agreements."
The decision results in Google remaining virtually unscathed and leaves its competitors, specifically Microsoft (News - Alert), baffled. Microsoft has come out against the FTC for not putting controlled limits on what they call Google's “growing monopoly on the Web.” Microsoft itself is no stranger to antitrust probes, the software giant spent years battling antitrust regulators in the 1990s.
As part of the settlement, Google also agreed to stop contractual restrictions that prevented small businesses from advertising on competing search platforms.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman