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U.S., Google settle antitrust matter

Jan. 3, 2013 at 3:20 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission says Google, in a settlement, has agreed to change its business practices following a two-year antitrust investigation.

Under the agreement, Google's competitors will gain access to standard-essential patents while advertisers will have more flexibility to use rival search engines, an FTC release reported Thursday.

Google agreed to change some practices competitors had charged could stifle competition in the markets for popular devices such as smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles, as well as the market for online search advertising, the FTC 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," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. "This was an incredibly thorough and careful investigation by the Commission, and the outcome is a strong and enforceable set of agreements."

Google has for several years been presenting its own products, like its Google+ social network, in search results for websites featuring local business listings, airline schedules and weather reports, which has often pushed competitors' listings lower on search results pages, bringing criticism by rivals and even Congress.

"Undoubtedly, Google took aggressive actions to gain advantage over rival search providers," Beth Wilkinson, an outside counsel to the Commission, said. "However, the FTC's mission is to protect competition, and not individual competitors. The evidence did not demonstrate that Google's actions in this area stifled competition in violation of U.S. law."

Google still faces a parallel investigation by regulators in the European Union, where antitrust laws are much tighter.

Google is expected to offer some concessions to EU officials this month.

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