ICOMP is deeply disappointed by the FTC’s decision today in its antitrust investigation of Google. The consent decree on Google’s standards-essential patents is weaker than what is already required under U.S. law. Google’s use of these patents to block competing products from the market clearly hurts consumers, and it is far from clear that the decree will prevent Google from continuing to use these patents to stifle competition and increase prices for consumers.
Even more discouraging is the FTC’s failure to address Google’s search bias and its decision to impose no formal remedies on Google’s other abusive practices in search. The FTC’s willingness to accept voluntary, unenforceable commitments from Google is even less than a slap on the wrist. It will prove utterly ineffective in preventing Google from using its search dominance – 93 percent in Europe and 90 percent globally –to harm competition and consumers.
Given this development, it is more important than ever that the European Commission, as it concludes its own investigation of Google, stands firm and insists on meaningful remedies that address Google’s search bias and fully restore competition in search. Google´s market shares and dominance are considerably higher in Europe. The FTC and the EC operate under very different legislative frameworks and are dealing with substantially different market realities. Indeed, Commissioner Almunia has already stated that he expects binding commitments from Google, including on the issue of search bias, that will be enforceable through the so-called “Article 9” procedure. Such commitments promise to be far more effective and enforceable than the “voluntary commitments” accepted by the FTC.
The Commission’s efforts over the coming weeks are of utmost importance, as they will determine whether Europe will have a truly open and competitive Internet. ICOMP members support all efforts to restore competition in search and stand ready to provide input on any proposed remedies.