FTC’s Rosch Says Agency Not a Tool for Antitrust Attacks

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, under pressure from Microsoft Corp. and its allies to sue Google Inc., shouldn’t be seen by big companies as a tool to bring antitrust cases against competitors, Commissioner Thomas Rosch said.

“They can darn well bring it as a private antitrust action if they think their ox is being gored instead of free-riding on the government to achieve the same result,” Rosch, one of two Republicans on the five-member commission, said yesterday in an interview.

The FTC and Mountain View, California-based Google are in discussions to settle a 20-month investigation into whether the world’s most popular search engine is quashing competition in the Internet industry, people familiar with the talks have said. The most serious allegation competitors make -- that Google skews search results to favor its own services -- isn’t part of the negotiations, the people have said.

To highlight what its members call Google’s anticompetitive behavior, FairSearch.org was formed in October 2010. The group includes companies such as Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, U.K. shopping comparison website Foundem and Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia Inc., an online travel service.

FairSearch.org has pressed the FTC to sue Google over the search-bias claim, among other alleged violations. In a paper FairSearch.org prepared to make its case to the commission, the group said, “Closing the investigation, or accepting inadequate relief, will further entrench the very conduct and exacerbate the harm the antitrust laws are designed to prevent.”

Rosch, who declined to comment on the Google probe, was nominated to the commission by former Republican President George W. Bush and took office in 2006. He plans to leave the commission when a replacement is confirmed by the Senate. President Barack Obama in September nominated Joshua Wright, a Republican law professor at George Mason University, to take the Republican seat on the commission now held by Rosch.

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