Following the disclosure of a 2012 report from the FTC's Bureau of Competition, Consumer Watchdog today called on the Federal Trade Commission to re-open its antitrust investigation of Google. The group also urged the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee to hold a hearing probing how the Internet giant escaped prosecution for its anticompetitive practices.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group acted in response to a 2012 report from the FTC's Bureau of Competition that recommended to the Commission that Google be prosecuted. The report was revealed by the Wall Street Journal, which got part of the 160-page document when the FTC mistakenly released it in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the newspaper said.
The American agency is facing a flurry of awkward questions about its handling of the Google investigation as at least one internal report had recommended stronger action.
According to the WSJ's document, Google's "conduct has resulted-and will result-in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets."
"It is unfathomable that the FTC declined to sue the Internet giant, in the face of pervasive and persuasive evidence from its expert staff," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director. "The only way the FTC can redeem itself and regain public trust is to re-open the case. Indeed, Google's anticompetitive and abusive practices of favoring its own services in search results continue."
Consumer Watchdog called on Chairman Sen. Michael S. Lee (R-UT) and Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to hold a Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing investigating how Google managed to dodge antitrust prosecution by the FTC.
Consumer Watchdog said the FTC should immediately release the staff report from the Bureau of Competition. There was also reportedly a Google staff report from the FTC's Bureau of Economics. It should be made public as well, Consumer Watchdog said.
Google is also facing possible charges from the European Union antitrust regulators. Many of the same issues concerning Google now under investigation in Europe are part of the earlier investigation led by the Federal Trade Commission.
But European competition officials have been loath to bring formal charges against such a successful and powerful company.
Instead, the Commission has spent much of the past five years trying to reach a settlement with Google that would end the case — focused on its search and advertising businesses, and on whether it stacks its search results to favor its own products - without a fine or a formal finding of wrongdoing.
Google’s rivals and groups like publishing companies in France and Germany have successfully complained that most of the changes proposed by Google have been insufficient to solve the antitrust concerns identified by regulators.