Google gets off with slap on wrist

Washington - The internet search engine company Google avoided a potentially costly legal battle with US regulators on Thursday by pledging to change some business practices and by settling a patent dispute.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted 5-0 to close its investigation into whether Google unfairly skewed its search results and 4-1 to accept the consent agreement relating to patents, the FTC said.

Google agreed to change some of its business practices to resolve FTC concerns that its practices could stifle competition in the markets for smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles, as well as the market for online search advertising.

In addition Google will allow competitors fair and reasonable access to patents on critical standardized technologies needed to make smart phones and other popular devices, the commission said.

“The changes Google has agreed to make will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of competition in the online marketplace and in the market for innovative wireless devices they enjoy,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

On the patent matter the FTC said it was glad to see that Google would live up to its commitments to license its standard-essential patents, which will ensure that companies willing to license these patents can compete in the market for wireless devices.

Google has more than 32,000 employees and annual revenues of nearly 38 billion dollars. An alliance of other internet search companies had pressed the FTC to sue Google. They said its dominance as the most-popular internet search engine, combined with favouring its own services in answers to queries, violated antitrust laws.

Jeffrey Jacobovitz, an antitrust lawyer in Washington, told Bloomberg the competitors would view the agreement as only minor punishment.

“It's clear the FTC thought this was the best deal they could get and if they had gone to court, they may not have been as successful,” Jacobovitz said. - Sapa-dpa