Google Competitors Spitting Mad About FTC Closing Case; Promise That Europe & Texas Will Get It Right
from the we'll-see-about-that dept
With the FTC closing its antitrust case against Google, the group of Google’s competitors who were the main instigators behind the effort aren’t giving up easily. Gary Reback, the lawyer whose entire persona is wrapped up in being “the lawyer who gets the FTC to attack big companies” (he also led the charge against Microsoft a decade and a half ago) issued an incredibly combative statement:
“I’ve been doing this almost 40 years, and I’ve done dozens if not scores of government investigations on both sides, and I have never seen a more unprofessional, incomplete, incompetent investigation,” said Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley lawyer who represented some of Google’s complainants before the FTC.
Really, now? In the briefing the FTC gave about the situation, FTC boss, Jon Liebowitz, indicated that the Google competitors’ strategy of attacking the FTC when it was suggested that there might not be enough evidence for antitrust didn’t help convince the FTC to suddenly create evidence out of thin air. Apparently, Reback would prefer that the FTC do stuff just because he says so, even as the evidence for Reback’s claims are completely lacking.
Meanwhile, the laughably named “FairSearch” group — a collection of Google competitors, who teamed up to create a publicity campaign solely with the goal of attacking Google over antitrust claims, came out with its own hilarious statement, which could be summarized as “it’s not over yet! There’s still Europe! And Texas!”
“The FTC’s decision to close its investigation with only voluntary commitments from Google is disappointing and premature, coming just weeks before the company is expected to make a formal and detailed proposal to resolve the four abuses of dominance identified by the European Commission, first among them biased display of its own properties in search results.
The FTC’s settlement is by no means the last word in this case, leaving the FTC without a major role in the final resolution to the investigations of Google’s anti-competitive practices by state attorneys general and the European Commission. The FTC’s inaction on the core question of search bias will only embolden Google to act more aggressively to misuse its monopoly power to harm other innovators.
State attorneys general who reportedly disagreed with today’s announcement by the FTC have an important role to play in ensuring both that Google is not allowed to continue practices that hurt every American business through artificially high advertising costs, and to demand that whatever changes Google is forced to make in Europe also apply for U.S. consumers who risk losing innovation because of Google’s aggressive abuse of its dominance.
It is true that the EU Commission is still doing its own investigation, and given the EU’s general feelings that “big” (and “American”) must somehow be “bad,” it’s likely that they’ll come down a bit more harshly on Google, as they did on Microsoft. Similarly, some state Attorneys General (mainly Texas) who have been grandstanding against Google and other tech companies for years will likely grouse about this — but their ability to do anything about it may be fairly limited, given the lack of any actual evidence of harm.
In the end, this is coming off as even more sour grapes from companies who chose to focus on whining to government, rather than competing in the marketplace. In the future, instead of spending so much on lobbyists and lawyers, perhaps they could focus on building better products that the market wants.