It’s looking less likely that the Federal Trade Commission believes it has a solid enough case to take Google to court on antitrust grounds, at least over the way Google presents results from its own products.
A report from Bloomberg today says Google may “skirt the most serious antitrust allegations under investigation,” as regulators “waver on whether they can prove consumers are hurt by the way the company ranks its search results”. The report cites three people familiar with the situation, and adds FTC officials are “unsure they have enough evidence to sue Google successfully under antitrust laws for giving its own services top billing and pushing down the offerings of rivals.”
Bloomberg’s Sara Forden and Jeff Bliss write:
Regulators are also looking at whether the ranking system’s benefits to consumers outweigh any harm suffered by rivals including NexTag Inc. and Kayak Software Corp. (KYAK), the people said.
Presumably, they’re also considering the fact that it is extraordinarily easy for anybody with a computer, tablet or smartphone (even with Google’s own Chrome browser or Android operating system) to go to NexTag.com or Kayak.com if they want results from those services. I was able to confirm this is possible by typing these URLs into the Chrome browser. Both sites appeared to have loaded and enabled me to conduct searches.
It’s worth noting that Kayak, a member of FairSearch (an organization comprised of Google competitors) which has been pressuring the FTC to take action against Google, is set to be acquired by Priceline, which is curiously not part of the organization. When asked about what the acquisition would mean for Kayak’s role in FairSearch, the organization would not offer comment.