FTC may be going too far with Google, say Democrats

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Two US lawmakers have warned the Federal Trade Commission that it may be exceeding its authority in widening its investigation into Google.

California Democrats Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren say that it doesn't have the right to accuse Google of unfair business practices as part of an antitrust claim. Some reports have suggested that the FTC is hoping to use Section 5 of the FTC Act to do this, in order to lower the standard of proof required.

"Expanding the FTC's Section 5 powers to include antitrust matters could lead to overbroad authority that amplifies uncertainty and stifles growth," they wrote to FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz.

"These effects may be most acutely felt among online services, a crucial engine of job creation, where technological advancement and small business innovation are rapid. If the FTC indeed intends to litigate under this interpretation of Section 5, we strongly urge the FTC to reconsider."

The pair are also critical of the fact that the proposal was leaked in the first place.

"The FTC has a responsibility to remain fair and impartial while protecting the confidentiality of internal discussions among the parties involved," they say.

"The release of sensitive details from an internal draft FTC staff report is irresponsible and potentially compromises an investigation that has yet to be voted on by the full Commission."

The investigation has been focusing on the suggestion that Google unfairly pushes its own results higher than those of its competitors in search rankings. The FTC is also said to be considering action on standards essential patents.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has said he expects to make a decision by the endd of the year as to whether to proceed with a lawsuit.