While the EU forces Google to take some steps towards resolving antitrust allegations, the US’ FTC is proving outmanoeuvred and toothless.
Europe’s antitrust chief has publicly warned Google that it could face charges of breaching EU rules, and be fined, unless it does more to ease concerns that it used its search to block rivals. In the EU, Google seems on edge and is talking with the watchdogs often to avoid a court case.
However, there is something decidedly rotten in the way the matter has been handled in the US.
While trembling with fear about the EU, as Techradar points out, for almost 20 months Google has stared down an FTC antitrust investigation.
According to Bloomberg it has not even offered the FTC a settlement. If it doesn’t, the FTC will be forced to sue in a case that could take two to three years to litigate and cost a fortune to fund.
But Google does not seem to care. The idea is that if the company does eventually offer a settlement, it will be a face saver for the FTC and will not involve money changing hands.
While the legal process goes on, Google will continue to use the business practises that the FTC does not like to make a killing.
This is because the US legal system is too slow to take on complaints of this type. For example, by the time that the FTC dealt with Microsoft, Netscape was stone dead.
As far as cash rich companies such as Google are concerned, having to pay the US a billion is small change when you take into account the fact you have killed off your rivals and established yourself as a top monopoly. That is assuming that it will have to pay anything.
The only problem with that strategy is that Google’s rivals could sue it, long after the dust has settled with the FTC.
So all the search engine has to do then, is head off the FTC with a face saving token settlement about a year into the litigation process.
Google would have to agree that it would limit what it would otherwise be free to do. The FTC could say that the larger goal of keeping competition intact would win out and Google will have run its anticompetitive behaviour for long enough to do some damage.
A settlement would not be an admission of fault, which would make it difficult for Google rivals to use the FTC to help their own legal case.