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Google to reportedly dodge antitrust suit with FTC by making voluntary changes to search

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In 2011, the US Federal Trade Commission launched a formal probe into Google's search practices — an investigation that could have resulted in antitrust lawsuits against the company — but according to The Wall Street Journal, Google's troubles with the government could end as soon as this week. The FTC is reportedly prepared to end its investigation by allowing Google to voluntarily change its search practices, and while the voluntary changes have not been confirmed, Politico reports that changes could include reducing the use of restaurant and travel reviews from other websites and allowing search ad campaigns to be easily migrated to rival search engines. The voluntary arrangement would allow Google to sidestep having to enter into a consent decree that the FTC would be able to enforce over time. The FTC's willingness to accept voluntary action from Google could be a result of a reportedly insufficient case against Google; last month, Bloomberg reported that the government was unsure whether it had enough evidence to proceed with antitrust lawsuits.

The FTC has also been investigating Google since June over its use of Motorola's patent portfolio, based on the question of whether or not Motorola has engaged in abusive, anticompetitive FRAND patent litigation. Google is also prepared to escape that investigation without a lawsuit; as Politico reported on Tuesday, the investigation is imminently expected to end in a settlement that would likely see Google agree to license any standards-essential patents in the Motorola portfolio and avoid seeking sales bans on alleged infringement related to those patents.

Both the patent settlement and the voluntary changes to search would add to Google's portfolio of resolved disputes with the FTC this year — back in August, the company agreed to pay a $22.5 million penalty to settle charges that it ignored user settings in Apple's Safari browser. To date, that settlement was the largest fee the FTC has collected for such a violation.

The Verge
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