Tuesday, November 20, 2012

House Lawmakers Call on FTC to Avoid Overstepping in Google Investigation

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

Two Democratic members of the House of Representatives have sent a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, expressing concerns over apparent leaks of information regarding the agency’s investigation into Google, Inc. and asking the agency to act within its statutory authority in pursuing the matter.

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (California), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (California) suggested in the November 19 letter that the purported release of sensitive details from an internal draft FTC report was "irresponsible” and that it “potentially compromises an investigation that has yet to be voted on by the full Commission.”

The congresswomen stressed the need for the agency to “remain fair and impartial” and to protect “the confidentiality of internal discussions among the parties involved.”

In June 2011, Google announced that the FTC was conducting a formal review its business practices. Google did not disclose details of the investigation.

Recent reports have suggested that an FTC enforcement action will soon be announced. The European Commission has already announced an in-depth antitrust investigation into whether Google’s Internet search display practices were designed to shut out competitors.

The letter also questioned the Commission’s use of its authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act to reach allegedly anticompetitive conduct that might not be found illegal under Section 2 of the Sherman Act.

“Expanding the FTC’s Section 5 powers to include antitrust matters could lead to overbroad authority that amplifies uncertainty and stifles growth,” according to the representatives. “If the FTC intends to litigate under this interpretation of Section 5, we strongly urge the FTC to reconsider.”

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