FTC May Not Have Enough to Get Google on Antitrust

Trade commission officials find it difficult to prove that skewed search results harm consumers, sources say.

Google Inc. may skirt the most serious antitrust allegations under investigation by the U.S. as regulators waver on whether they can prove consumers are hurt by the way the company ranks its search results, three people familiar with the matter said.

Federal Trade Commission officials are unsure they have enough evidence to sue Google successfully under antitrust laws for giving its own services top billing and pushing down the offerings of rivals, said the people, who asked for anonymity because the discussions aren’t public. Regulators are also looking at whether the ranking system’s benefits to consumers outweigh any harm suffered by rivals including NexTag Inc. and Kayak Software Corp., the people said.

European Union

Separately, the European Union, now in settlement talks with Google over antitrust concerns, is pressing the company to make changes to its search practices.

‘Relevant Answers’

“Our challenge is to return the most relevant answers first,” Schmidt said at a Senate hearing last year. “This means that not every website can come on top.”

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