A Glimpse Inside Google’s Antitrust Woes

On 29 October 2012, Google Inc. filed its standard quarterly financial report with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.  US law protects investors by requiring listed companies to disclose financial and other significant information on a regular basis.

It is pretty standard practice to disclose brushes with regulatory authorities, investigations into allegations of unlawful behaviour, and significant civil litigation matters.  But Google’s recent disclosures shed light on the extraordinary scale of the number of anti-trust investigations currently going on into its practices.

United States

Google disclosed that in the US its business practices, including search and advertising, are being investigated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Competition and, in June 2011, it received a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) from the FTC and a subpoena from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  Google has also received similar CIDs from the State attorneys general from the states of Texas, Ohio, and Mississippi.

Google also disclosed that, in June 2012, it received a CID and a subpoena from the FTC’s Bureau of Competition seeking documents and information broadly related to Motorola’s licensing practices for standards-essential patents and use of standards-essential patents in litigation.

European Union

With regard to the European Union, Google acknowledged that the European Commission’s (EC) Directorate General for Competition has also opened an investigation into various antitrust-related complaints against Google.   This seems to be the first time that Google has acknowledged all the complaints to which it has been asked by the Commission to respond.  It confirms speculation that the number of formal complainants now numbers at least twenty.  A full list of the complainants can be found below.

Google also confirmed that the EC has opened an investigation into Motorola’s licensing practices for standards-essential patents and use of standards-essential patents in litigation on the basis of complaints brought by Microsoft and Apple.

Rest of World

Finally, Google acknowledged that the Comision Nacional de Defensa de la Competencia in Argentina, the Competition Commission of India, and the Korea Fair Trade Commission in South Korea have also opened investigations into Google’s business practices.

 

David Wood,

ICOMP Legal Counsel

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List of parties that have submitted formal complaints against Google to the European Commission (in chronological order):

Ciao; Ejustice; Foundem; 1plusV, parent company of Ejustice; VfT, an association of business listings providers in Germany; Microsoft; Elfvoetbal; Hotmaps; Interactive Lab; nnpt.it; dealdujour.pro; the Spanish Association of Daily Newspaper Publishers; Twenga; the German newspaper associations, Bundesverband Deutscher Zeitungsverleger (BDZV) and Verband Deutscher Zeitschriftenverleger (VDZ); Expedia; Tripadvisor; Odigeo; Streetmap; Nextag.