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Reuters: FTC Moves Toward Case Against Google, Four Commissioners See Company Illegally Using its Dominance

PoliticoPro and Reuters reported today that the Federal Trade Commission is moving closer toward bringing an antitrust case against Google for illegally using its search dominance to harm competitors.

The Reuters report said:

“Four of the FTC commissioners have become convinced after more than a year of investigation that Google illegally used its dominance of the search market to hurt its rivals, while one commissioner is skeptical, the sources said … Two of the sources said a decision on how to proceed could come in late November or early December.”

The commission has been making preparations to bring such a case for some time. Earlier this month, the FTC hired a chief economist and earlier this year, former top federal prosecutor Beth Wilkinson was brought on as outside counsel in the Google case.

News that the commission is moving closer to a legal conclusion that Google’s anti-competitive practices violate U.S. laws and to a vote that would initiate a formal case offers hope that the competitive landscape for Internet search and search advertising and related services competition will be restored through meaningful, enforceable provisions that come with strong ongoing monitoring of Google’s behavior, as the Justice Department imposed in putting strong conditions on Google’s acquisition of ITA Software.

With the FTC moving closer to action, it is unlikely that any negotiations in the case would yield superficial remedies, such as Google’s proposal of simply labeling where the company is illegally steering users to its own products, which would not resolve the competition concerns and might even just further entrench Google’s dominance.

According to the PoliticoPro report:

“If you have staff and commission ready to bring a case and you’ve hired a litigator and an economist, it would suggest two things: a settlement or a court case,” said another source familiar with the investigation. “If the commission has enough votes to bring a case, the price for settling goes up significantly for Google.”

Since Google has proven unwilling to change the illegal practices under investigation around the world, it seems likely that law enforcement authorities will have no other option but to step in and force the search giant to change its anti-competitive, illegal ways, once and for all.