FTC probe into Google antitrust allegations should end in settlement

Conduct remedies include practices like regularly reporting to the FTC for a time or, in some cases, requiring pre-authorization for certain policy changes.

Google is no stranger to the FTC or Department of Justice (DOJ), with a history of antitrust issues coming before both agencies.

In 2011, for example, the company bought ITA Travel, a deal that only received DOJ approval after Google agreed to limits on how it could use the flight search's software, including having to license it to other companies.

A settlement is never an admission of fault, Brosnick said, meaning Google could escape with nothing more than having to hire 10 more attorneys for its compliance department.

As for terms of a settlement, whether there's any unsavory impact on Google is a matter of perspective.

"From Google's perspective, what they are doing is not anti-competative," Brosnick said.

"If you ask Google today, they would say they are treating downstream competitors like themselves, not favoring itself, and if we agree to a conduct remedy, that wouldn't change anything because we are already doing it."

TechRadar did ask Google for comment and received this statement from a spokesperson:

"We continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission and are happy to answer any questions they may have."


Brosnick proposed that the FTC could attempt to revive the essential facilities doctrine, a legal doctrine that says a service like Google search is essential to other businesses and can't be used by Google to benefit its own auxiliary ventures.

It's fallen out of favor, Brosnick said, and though the FTC hasn't referred to the doctrine by name (yet), it's an antitrust angle those in the field recognize.

The FTC did not return calls for comment, but the lines are far from black and white in this case.

"It's not unlawful to have a monopoly," Brosnick said of Google's search engine market dominance. "If you build a better mousetrap, as Google has, it's not illegal.

"What is illegal is developing practices that take away from competition."

The FTC may not get the chance to cast that judgement, at least not this time around.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.