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Google Poised to End U.S. Antitrust Probe With Agreement

The Google Inc. logo is reflected in water droplets for an arranged photograph. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
The Google Inc. logo is reflected in water droplets for an arranged photograph. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is set to close its antitrust probe of Google Inc. with an agreement letter from the company that addresses the use of other websites’ content and the ability of advertisers to transfer data to other platforms, a person familiar with the matter said.

The Federal Trade Commission announced it will hold a press conference today about the Google investigation at 1 p.m.

The Google letter, which the agency will describe as enforceable by law, will offer other websites the option to say they don’t want their content to be displayed in Google search results, said the person, who asked not to be named because details of the FTC’s decision aren’t public.

The letter will also include a non-discrimination provision on Google’s advertising practices, allowing advertisers to compare data from their campaigns across platforms, the person said.

The decision to close the probe of Google’s search practices without enforcement action is a blow to competitors including Microsoft Corp., Yelp Inc., and Expedia Inc. An alliance of such e-commerce and Web-search companies pressed the agency to bring a lawsuit, claiming Google’s dominance of Internet search, combined with favoring its own services in answers to queries, violates antitrust laws.

Unprecedented Step

Matt Reilly, a former FTC litigator who represents Fairsearch.org, the alliance of Google competitors, said it was unprecedented for the agency to resolve a case with a voluntary agreement.

“Any time we were negotiating and the parties would say ‘Can we do this without a consent decree?’ the answer was always ‘No,’” Reilly said. “Now, everybody is going to want the deal Google got. There is a lot of disappointment.”

Google is expected to settle allegations it misused patents to thwart competitors in smartphone technology, three people familiar with the matter have said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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