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.

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Companies: fairsearch, google

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Comments on “Google Competitors Spitting Mad About FTC Closing Case; Promise That Europe & Texas Will Get It Right”

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30 Comments
AdamBv1 (profile) says:

Re: What!!!

This confuses me as well. Does this mean I’m in the wrong every time I tell somebody that our company has a product or solution for them first instead of telling them that Bob across the street can do it? Last I checked pretty much every company on earth promotes their own products and services above their competitors even if they are not as good, but Google doing this is somehow wrong?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: What!!!

Add to that google not actually self promoting like they say.

Google ‘Search Engine’ google is comes in 8th, after duckduckgo, bing, altavista (that really still exists???), etc.

They are doing nothing wrong as the FTC found.

and in so much that you don’t find that at all suspicious might make one think you have a possible conflict of interest here?

iambinarymind (profile) says:

"Antitrust Absurdity"

Picture Google as a good looking successful man who happens to find a different beautiful woman to go home with him every night voluntarily and have consensual sex with.

A group of not so good looking men (Google’s competitors), instead of working to make themselves more attractive in innovative ways, run to the government in an attempt to use State law to force some of the women, that would have voluntarily gone home with Google Man to have consensual sex, to instead have sex with them.

Or they may force Google Man to make himself uglier in an attempt to have less woman as attracted to him (Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” comes to mind).

It is never morally legitimate to initiate force against another individual, no matter what the excuse.

Either engage in consensual relationships/voluntary exchange or don’t engage at all.

Libreman says:

Google, no anti-trust issues?

Well, I can imagine some real anti-trust claims against Google … for example their transparency report, while great idea – Youtube is notably missing from it if I’m not mistaken?

Why would that be? May it be because Youtube gets it’s fair share of DMCA notices and Google pledged to downrate sites based on that?

Is Google going to apply it’s own rules on their sites as it should and as would be fair? I doubt that. But they should, otherwise it really smells of monopoly abuse to favor their own services.

Also their censoring of “pirate related” terms in auto-complete, while probably less direct, could be construed as anticompetitive – suppressing competition, as it lacks any objective rules and is apparently completely left to Google’s discretion what they censor.

Or what about compelling users to install their own browser (Chrome) in their search? Wasn’t MS sanctioned for doing something similar in bundling IE in Win?

I don’t know what the actual claims were – I’m going to investigate that now but it’s a far cry from such a ridiculous idea as you appear to make it out to be. I can imagine claims that appear credible and Google can be shown to abuse their monopoly position (depending on your definition of ‘abuse’)

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Google, no anti-trust issues?

No, your ideas are as ridiculous as they look. Youtube videos are pulled on DMCA take-down notices so they don’t show up in the search any more; they don’t get bumped down, they go away.

Auto-complete doesn’t count as a trust issue as it doesn’t actually effect their search at all nor are they blocking anything that could cause a trust issue. If they were blocking competitors’s companies, then yes, it would be. But they’re not.

Advertising their browser is different then forcing everyone to use their browser (as was the complaint with IE). I would also point out that if IE coming with Windows is a problem, then Safari coming with anything Apple is also a problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Google, no anti-trust issues?

The problems in EU are 4 streets and only 1 is search-related, which is likely to take only some small adjustments. 2 of the issues are linked to how their advertising-company is run (1 claim on exclusivity on using search-terms. I think that one will be easily resolved by Google increasing their transparency. The other is on the contract-restrictions allegedly preventing advertisers from using other services.)
The last area is copyright, where we all know how inconsistent and bad the laws are enforced.

EU anti-competition commissionairy is bureaucratic as beep and slow, but they are generally pretty strict on following the laws and has previously been hard to corrupt by threats from the companies.

On that note, a Google proposal for a settlement has been accepted by EU. The following are some of the commissioners statements on the matter:
“Since our preliminary talks with Google started in July, we have substantially reduced our differences.

On the basis of the progress made, I now expect Google to come forward with a detailed commitment text in January 2013″
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20781530

Seems that Google is going to make a deal in Europe instead of going to court like FTC did.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Google, no anti-trust issues?

“Also their censoring of “pirate related” terms in auto-complete, while probably less direct, could be construed as anticompetitive – suppressing competition, as it lacks any objective rules and is apparently completely left to Google’s discretion what they censor.”

Charge them for things other branches of the government pressured them into? “I can imagine claims that appear credible” Congratulations you have a bright future at the DOJ ahead of you.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Google, no anti-trust issues?

Or what about compelling users to install their own browser (Chrome) in their search?

There is no compelling going on here. It’s merely a suggestion. It’s as brazenly anticompetitive as the cute McDonald’s dude asking “would you like fries with that?”.

Maybe the FTC should force the McDonald’s guy to ask “would you like Burger King fries with that?”

Nobody is forced to install Chrome. It is merely a suggestion by Google to try another Google product. (Like french fries)

If this is bad, then the reverse is just as bad: Microsoft should not be allowed to make Bing the default search engine in its browser.

Nigel (profile) says:

Ehhh, yeah Texas....

ooops hit the wrong button.

“Promise That Europe & Texas Will Get It Right”

I was going to ask, not so sarcastically, “when was the last time Texas got something right”

However, I seem to recall ONE thing coming out of E.Texas lately that was appropriately rendered. I could be wrong.

The only thing good coming out of E.Texas was Lyle Lovett.

Poor guy…. http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080711/1439371651.shtml

Nigel

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Perhaps Texas will get its wish to secede from the United States and join up with the Western Bloc nations, joining forces against Google in a marriage of convenience that will redefine the word “awkward,” forcing linguistic experts to handcraft a new word to describe mildly uncomfortable situations.

Texas has considered itself to be its own nation for years now. The only hitch will be agreeing to work with “foreigners” who suffer from a lack of grazing land and oil reserves. (Also: several national flags will need to be redesigned to meet Texas’ exacting standards of three colors and a prominent star. And under no circumstances will the Dallas Cowboys be renamed the Dallas Continentals.)

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

Yep this is what this is corporate whining about having to compete.

Who Cares (profile) says:

EU and getting things right?

There are more things that play then just the dislike of big (the American part not so much if you check the cases that the EU anti-trust commission managed).

Google has has around a 90% market ratio around here (the EU).
What are considered monopoly practices is different between the EU and the USA.
Then there are the newspapers who want a piece of the Google pie.
Also the shenanigans with Streetview slurping WiFi data hasn’t been forgotten.
And a few more of minor quibbles like those last two.

That said I do expect them to find that Google hasn’t abused it’s position if the commission decides to investigate.

Cynyr (profile) says:

Re: EU and getting things right?

I still haven’t figured out what everyone’s issue with the wifi data was? It was the digital equivalent of getting mad that you were shouting into you cell phone in your front yard and someone passing by remembered a small bit of your conversation…

Grabbing a small amount of WPA2 data isn’t enough to do anything. You need a few sets of handshake data at least. This is unlikely to happen in the short time google was driving by.

By the way, no I don’t care at all if google knows where my AP is, or has some encrypted data from it. Now if they park a van in my parking lot for a day or 2, and it turns out that they are harvesting data, then maybe I’ll be concerned.

Beech says:

Apple?

With all this, how is Apple not in anti-trust problems all over the damn place? Their walled garden generation of products lock people into Apple services. Have an iPhone? Better feel like getting songs from iTunes and apps from the AppStore, because you can’t get them anywhere else without rooting/jailbreaking the product (which is maybe considered illegal depending where you are). The only way to get away from Apple’s stuff is to buy another equivalent product.

At least if I ever get tired of Google I don’t need to buy another computer. Hell, if i get sick of Android I don’t even need to buy another phone. If at anytime I am unsatisfied, I can get apps elsewhere, play music from bought from anywhere, search using any search engine, get email from wherever I choose, and so on. So, how is Google in potential anti-trust hot water but Apple isn’t?

Anonymous Coward says:

considering the way the USA is behaving on the world stage, bullying countries into doing exactly what it wants, even when the laws of those countries haven’t been broken (and usually just to please the US entertainment industries!), is it any wonder why the EU perceives anything “big” (and “American”) must somehow be “bad,”? nothing the USA does or has done for the last 10 years has been to the benefit of anyone other than the US and US industries, while everyone else has been trampled on, bullied, threatened (usual tactic of do what we say or you’ll be sorry!) or ignored! and it’s still going on now!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Laughablly complex

after all, didn’t this gOOGle claim to be the first search engine back in the ‘late’ nineties? There are so many confused over this.. Still, they have raked in the dough from advertising, no, and they can dish it out too. TOO BIG, too bad. This company has, no doubt, all the cards and could make any entity pay for opposition to them, right? the information this company has its hands on? The world has shrunk so incredibly much and fast. They are buzzing around everywhere now.. Up on the Chinese side of of some Tibetan mountainside village and zooming down 3rd street somewhere as sure as you are reading this, possibly (and most incredibly) in a driverless car or ox cart.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Laughablly complex

There were other search engines before Google.

Since Google was actually late to the party, what made them successful?

Oh, yeah. It was that they had something radically better than their entrenched competitors.

Google is vulnerable to innovation. If someone comes up with something better, people will flock to it. Nobody is locked into Google. Nobody is forced to use Google.

You are free to not use any Google properties at all. So what are you complaining about? Oh, yeah. It’s the fact that Google has worked hard which resulted in becoming very successful. You want the successful part without the work hard part.

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