The Federal Trade Commission is considering whether to bring up a “historic” antitrust suit against Google Inc. according to The Hill.In order to approve legal action, three of the five FTC commissioners must vote in favour.
As it stands, two are opposed to bringing an anti-trust suit against Google, two are in favour and one — Democrat Edith Ramirez — is undecided.
Republicans Maureen Ohlhousen and J. Thomas Rosch are expected to opposed the strongest charges, while Democrats Jon Lebowitz and Julie Brill are favourable to aggressive action against Google.
The issue is the allegation from competitors that Google is manipulating its search results to make its own services appear higher than those of competitors. With two-thirds of the market on search, competitors like Microsoft and Yahoo believe that Google is behaving like a monopoly and is anti-competition.
Google’s competitors recently formed Fair Search, an anti-Google organisation that argues that the company is crushing competition and innovation while engaging in unfair business practices.
Commissioner Lebowitz has had staff preparing a Section 5 suit against Google, requiring plaintiffs to demonstrate that a company is engaging in anti-competitive conduct without having to prove it hurts consumers.
This would alleviate the requirement to prove that manipulation of search rankings hurts customers.
The FTC has never won a Section 5 suit in court.
Ramirez, the swing vote, wants to ensure a case against Google depends on evidence that the search hurts consumers, according to sources the Hill spoke to. If she’s convinced, the case against Google could move to the courts.