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December 17, 2012

Google close to deal with FTC over antitrust case: reports

Changes to search practices could be enough to satisfy US authorities, reports suggest

By CBR Staff Writer

Search engine giant Google is expected to settle the two-year antitrust investigation into its web-search business with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) soon, several reports have suggested.

According to reports, the FTC is expected to reach an agreement with Google after the company said it would make alterations to its algorithms and search practices. That will be enough to satisfy the FTC, who will close its investigation, the reports said.

The closing of the case without any formal decree being signed by Google would represent a setback to some of its competitors such as Microsoft and Yelp. Those companies had voiced concerns over Google’s dominance of the online search industry.

Google, which has been involved in settlement negotiations with the FTC for two weeks now, opposed the FTC’s efforts to sign a formal settlement agreement over claims that it distorts search results to favour its services.

Fairsearch.org, the alliance that includes Microsoft, said in a statement that the enforcement authorities should not allow Google to continue to have an unfair advantage in the market gained through years of anti-competitive behaviour. "If the FTC fails to take meaningful action after a nearly two- year investigation, Google will only be emboldened to act in ways that are more harmful to consumers and innovators," the statement said.

However according to the Wall Street Journal, Google is still likely to have to sign a formal decree with the FTC over patents it acquired as part of its Motorola Mobility acquisition. According to the FTC, Google had improperly refused to grant patent licenses to mobile-device manufacturers and required court injunctions against them to halt the sale of their products.

Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich said: "We continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission and are happy to answer any questions they may have."

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