Google Search Probe by U.S. Should Get New Look, Utah Says

  • Utah, D.C. urge FTC to revisit case in light of EU complaint
  • FTC closed antitrust investigation into Google search in 2013

U.S. antitrust officials should consider revisiting their closed investigation into Google’s search practices in light of claims by the European Union that the company manipulates results, said Utah’s attorney general.

The Federal Trade Commission’s decision in 2013 not to bring a case against the company was followed about two years later by the European Commission’s complaint accusing Google of abusing its dominance of the search-engine market.

“The issue of local search result fairness is an evolving issue in a fast-paced digital economy,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a joint letter with the attorney general for the District of Columbia. “We encourage the commission to consider new information and developments that have become available both domestically and internationally since closing its Google investigation.”

The FTC’s decision not to bring a case over whether Google skewed search results to favor its own services disappointed companies and consumer advocates who were critical of the Internet giant. Google agreed to stop certain practices, including removing restrictions on the use of its online search advertising platform and offering companies the option of keeping their content out of Google’s search results.

Those concessions by Google came after FTC staff had recommended bringing a case against the company, arguing it had unlawfully maintained a monopoly over Internet search and search advertising that harmed consumers, according to a document the FTC inadvertently released as part of a public-records request.

The staff, however, didn’t recommend a case against Google related to complaints that it manipulated search results to preference its own content over that of its rivals. FTC commissioners last year said the agency’s decision was in line with staff recommendations.

Bloomberg News reported in September that the FTC was investigating Google’s Android business and whether it stifled competitors’ access to the mobile operating system.

Justin Cole, a spokesman for the FTC, declined to comment on the letter from Reyes and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine. A spokesman for Google didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

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