The hearings, which wrapped up Thursday, left Google with a mild reprimand — but not off scott free — and orders to change some of its business practices.
The FTC ordered Google to stop “scraping” the content of rival companies to better its own search results, and businesses should now be able to opt-out of Google’s products without a penalty to its SEO.
“In sum, we find that the evidence presented at this time does not support the allegation that Google’s display of its own vertical content at or near the top of its search results page was a product design change undertaken without a legitimate business justification,” the FTC said in a statement. “Rather, we conclude that Google’s display of its own content could plausibly be viewed as an improvement in the overall quality of Google’s search product.”
The FTC was most concerned about Google’s use of patents it had acquired through the purchase of Motorola Mobility, and it ordered the search giant to stop using patents that related to ‘standardized technologies’ to hamper the competition, and they must now be offered on a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) basis.
Microsoft, one of the lead complainants, was more concerned about Google’s attitude towards “search bias” and blocking mobile OS platforms that compete with Android from accessing its ecosystem (the latter of which was addressed in a separate complaint).
Microsoft released a statement late Thursday expressing dissatisfaction with the ruling.
“The FTC’s overall resolution of this matter is weak and — frankly — unusual. We are concerned that the FTC may not have obtained adequate relief even on the few subjects that Google has agreed to address,” Microsoft’s Vice President & Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner said in a statement.
“Google has long said that it merely aims to offer customers the most relevant answer to their query, and the FTC Commissioners accepted that view. Yet we know that Google routinely and systematically heavily promotes its own services in search results.”
“Is Google+ really more relevant than Facebook? Are Google’s travel results better than those offered by Expedia, Kayak and others?”