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Article posted: 12/16/2012 10:48 PM

Google said to end FTC probe by promising changes

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Google Inc. is poised to offer voluntary concessions that will end a 20-month antitrust probe of the company's business practices by U.S. regulators without any enforcement action being taken, two people familiar with the matter said.

Google, which has been under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, is preparing a letter saying it won't copy content from rival websites without permission and will allow advertisers to compare data from ad campaigns with their performance on other Internet search engines, one of the people said Saturday.

An end to the probe without any enforcement action would come as blow to competitors including Microsoft Corp., Yelp Inc., and Expedia Inc. An alliance of such companies pressed the agency to take action, complaining that with Google's dominance of Internet search, favoring its own services in response to queries violates antitrust laws.

The FTC is expected to close its antitrust investigation without filing a lawsuit or reaching a settlement, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn't public.

"We continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission and are happy to answer any questions they may have," Adam Kovacevich, a Google spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Kovacevich declined to comment on whether Google is preparing to announce concessions in the case or whether the FTC is preparing to close the matter without taking action. Cecelia Prewett, a spokeswoman for the FTC, declined to comment.

In another investigation of Google, the FTC will probably announce a consent decree with the company that would limit its ability to seek injunctions against competitors' products that rely on so-called standard essential patents, said the people. The decree would stop short of a complete ban on Google seeking injunctions against use of its patents where the company has agreed to license the technology on "fair and reasonable terms," the people said.

Google has been engaged in settlement talks with the FTC for about two weeks. The Mountain View, California-based company has resisted the FTC's efforts to reach a formal settlement agreement over allegations that it skews search results in favor of its own services, saying such an agreement may hurt its business prospects, said the people.

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