Google Inc. (GOOG) will resolve a 20-month antitrust probe by U.S. regulators today with a voluntary agreement and a consent decree on the company’s alleged misuse of patents, three people familiar with the matter said.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is poised to announce that Google has agreed to voluntarily change some business practices and settle allegations it misused patents to thwart competitors in smartphone technology, said the people, who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t public.
The FTC is expected to close its investigation into whether Google, operator of the world’s most popular search engine, skews its search results to favor its own services without enforcement action, the people said. The FTC’s decision not to take action is a blow to competitors including Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Yelp Inc. (YELP) and Expedia Inc. (EXPE) and comes at a time when the European Union is seeking a “detailed commitment” on search to end its probe into allegations that Google discriminates against rivals.
As part of its voluntary concessions, Google will make changes in the way it uses content from other websites and allow advertisers to export data to other platforms, the people said.
Peter Kaplan, a spokesman for the FTC, and Niki Fenwick, a Google spokeswoman, declined to comment on the resolution of the probe.
The expected FTC decision was drawing criticism from Google opponents, including the FairSearch.org coalition, an alliance that includes Microsoft and Expedia.
“If the FTC fails to take decisive action to end Google’s anti-competitive practices, and locks itself out of any remedies to Google’s conduct that are offered in Europe later this month, the FTC will have acted prematurely and failed in its mission of protecting America’s consumers,” according to a FairSearch.org blogpost published yesterday.
In another blogpost yesterday, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel Dave Heiner accused Google of anticompetitive practices, including continuing “to prevent Microsoft from offering consumers a fully featured YouTube app for the Windows Phone.”
Microsoft has complained about the issue both to the EU and the FTC, Heiner said. Google has blocked Microsoft’s new Windows Phones from operating properly with YouTube, while enabling its own Android phones to access YouTube, Heiner said in the posting.
“These restrictions are just one example of where we believe Google is impeding competition in the marketplace,” Heiner wrote in the posting.
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