US anti-trust regulators have ended a long running investigation into Google without bringing any major charges against the search engine giant, a move that is likely to disappoint rivals.
In what is being seen as a victory for Google, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has been investigating the way the company runs its search business, said the Californian giant had not violated anti-trust laws. The search engine will, however, voluntarily amend some of its practices under an agreement with the regulator.
“The evidence the FTC uncovered through this intensive investigation prompted us to require significant changes in Google’s business practices. However, regarding the specific allegations that the company biased its search results to hurt competition, the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission,” Beth Wilkinson, outside counsel to the FTC, said.
She added: “The evidence did not demonstrate that Google’s actions in this area stifled competition in violation of US law.”
The search engine has agreed to pull restrictions on the use of its advertising system that “may make it more difficult for advertisers to co-ordinate online advertising campaigns across multiple platforms,” the FTC said. It has also agreed to grant fair and reasonable licences to competitors on patents acquired as part of its buyout of Motorola Mobility last year.
In a post on the search engine’s blog, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, said: “The conclusion is clear: Google’s services are good for users and good for competition... As we made clear when the FTC started its investigation, we’ve always been open to improvements that would create a better experience.”
As part of the settlement announced by the FTC, Google said that while websites can already opt out of its search, “they can now [also] remove content... from specialized search results pages, such as local, travel and shopping.”
The FTC deal comes as Google awaits a decision from European anti-trust regulators, who have also been investigating the company. An announcement in that inquiry is expected as early as this month.