Advocacy Group Calls For FTC To Reopen Google Investigation

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The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to reopen an antitrust investigation into Google, in light of this week's news that a 2012 staff report recommended taking the company to court.

Consumer Watchdog also is urging the Senate to examine how Google “escaped prosecution for its anticompetitive practices.”

The organization, a frequent Google critic, was responding to an article in The Wall Street Journal, which said on Thursday that FTC staff found evidence that Google leveraged its market power in search to harm other companies. The Journal said it obtained a portion of the Bureau of Competition's staff report after the agency mistakenly released it in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

A separate, competing FTC report by its Bureau of Economics recommended against suing Google.

Consumer Watchdog is calling on the FTC to release both reports in their entirety.

The report in favor of suing focused on several allegations, including that Google scraped content from Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon. The search giant allegedly did so in order to boost its own sites.

In January of 2013 the FTC unanimously voted to close its investigation into Google without bringing an enforcement action. Former chairman Jon Leibowitz said at the time that Google had taken steps to alleviate concern over "troubling allegations" that it misappropriated rivals' content.

"Google allegedly 'scraped' the user-generated reviews of local restaurants displayed on Yelp, and led consumers to believe that these reviews were its own. When some of these Web sites complained to Google about this practice, Google allegedly threatened to remove them entirely from Google’s search results," Leibowitz stated.

Google addressed the FTC's concerns by promising to allow companies to opt out of appearing in the vertical search engines — like Google Local — but still show up in the general search results.

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