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November 13, 2012

FTC Urges Google to Settle in Antitrust Negotiations

By Colleen Lynch, TMCnet Contributor

Should Google (News - Alert) Inc. not make an offer to settle in the company’s antitrust investigation within the next few days, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission will hit the company with a formal complaint.

The warning was issued by FTC (News - Alert) Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz, a man much involved in the issue, as he has been dealing with Google’s case for nearly 20 months now. Over that time, Google has been engaged in numerous discussions with the agency as to whether the online-search giant is abusing its Internet dominance. It has reportedly been two weeks of back-to-back negotiations and Google has yet put forth a remedy proposal.

Still, the Internet powerhouse has made hardly any comment on the situation thus far, and seems to regard the issue as exactly the opposite – a non-issue.

“We continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission and are happy to answer any questions they may have,” said Adam Kovacevich, a spokesman for Google responding to an e-mail on the matter.

As it stands now, the FTC has not yet filed their case against Google, but is prepared to do so. 

Image via Shutterstock

The FTC has also communicated to Google that the agency won’t accept just any resolution; a consent decree is mandatory, and the solution must come through in a timely manner.

The ball is ostensibly in Google’s court, and the FTC will not wait much longer; if Google does not comply, the agency will reportedly take action against the company sometime in the next week.

Google and the FTC have the option to now settle out of court, so it is entirely up to Google at this point whether the case will be settled or be put in front of a judge and jury. Additionally, the charges potentially facing Google include that the company ranks its own services higher than those of competitors in their search results.

Additionally, investigators at the FTC believe officials at Google signed exclusive agreements to provide its search services to online publishers, making it difficult for advertisers to compare data from Google with those from Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft (News - Alert) Corp.’s Bing.

There has also been talk of Google misusing patent protections to block rivals’ smartphones from coming to market, as well.

The general argument is that Google is not being honest, giving false or skewed data to lure advertisers away from the competition. If Google is formally charged, this would be one of many court cases the company will be facing moving into 2013.

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