Consumer Watchdog, the consumer rights group, which also challenged Google’s FTC settlement over “Safari-gate,” has now spoken out against today’s announcement.
Consumer Watchdog says the settlement fails to end Google’s “most anticompetitive practice,” and has called upon the Department of Justice and state attorneys general to “press forward to end the Internet giant’s monopolistic behavior in search results,” something the FTC found to not be violating U.S. antitrust laws.
“Google clearly skews search results to favor its own products and services while portraying the results as unbiased. That undermines competition and hurts consumers,” said John M. Simpson , director of the group’s Privacy Project. “The FTC rolled over for Google. They’ve accepted Google executives’ promises that they will change two practices without even requiring a consent agreement, but Google has a track record of broken promises. Don’t forget, this fall the FTC fined Google $22.5 million for violating its most recent consent agreement. Why would the FTC take Google at its word?”
According to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz speaking at press conference this afternoon, because Google wouldn’t want to go through this again.
Consumer Watchdog says new Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, William J. Baer, whom Leibowitz praised during the press conference, should “make Google’s abuse of search a top priority”.
More from Consumer Watchdog’s statement:
The FTC’s settlement does require a consent agreement regarding so-called Standards Essential Patents held by Google’s Motorola subsidiary. Google is now required to license these patents to any company on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms – known as FRAND terms.
“This will help ensure competition in the manufacture of smartphones and tablets,” said Simpson, “but that was never the heart of the issue. Biased search and Google’s favoring its own properties do real consumer harm. Google is the gateway to the Internet for most people. When Google rigs the game, we all suffer. They need to be stopped.”
Consumer Watchdog has “expressed concern” that Leibowitz “may have rushed to finish the investigation so it could be concluded under his chairmanship,” as he is expected to step down soon.
The Commission vote to close the investigation related to Google’s search-related practices was a unanimous 5-0.