Showing 9 of 179 Publications in Vertical Restraints & Self-Preferencing

DOJ’s Latest on Apple Investigation

Popular Media From the WSJ: Publishers argue that the agency model promotes competition by allowing more booksellers to thrive. They say Amazon had sold e-books below cost . . .

From the WSJ:

Publishers argue that the agency model promotes competition by allowing more booksellers to thrive. They say Amazon had sold e-books below cost and that agency pricing saved book publishers from the fate suffered by record companies.

But the Justice Department believes it has a strong case that Apple and the five publishers colluded to raise the price of e-books, people familiar with the matter say.

Apple and the publishers deny that.

The Justice Department isn’t taking aim at agency pricing itself. The department objects to, people familiar with the case say, coordination among companies that simultaneously decided to change their pricing policies.

“We don’t pick business models—that’s not our job,” Ms. Pozen says, without mentioning the case explicitly. “But when you see collusive behavior at the highest levels of companies, you know something’s wrong. And you’ve got to do something about it.”

For related posts, see here.  The case increasingly appears to focus on whether the DOJ can prove coordination among rivals with respect to the shift to the agency model and e-book prices.

Filed under: antitrust, cartels, contracts, doj, e-books, economics, error costs, law and economics, litigation, MFNs, monopolization, resale price maintenance, technology, vertical restraints Tagged: agency model, Amazon, antitrust, Apple, doj, e-books, iBookstore, major publishers, MFN, most favored nations clause, per se, price-fixing, publishing industry, Rule of reason, vertical restraints

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

The Apple E-Book Kerfuffle Meets Alfred Marshall’s Principles of Economics

Popular Media From a pure antitrust perspective, the real story behind the DOJ’s Apple e-book investigation is the Division’s deep commitment to the view that Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) . . .

From a pure antitrust perspective, the real story behind the DOJ’s Apple e-book investigation is the Division’s deep commitment to the view that Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) clauses are anticompetitive (see also here), no doubt spurred on at least in part by Chief Economist Fiona Scott-Morton’s interesting work on the topic.

Of course, there are other important stories here (see Matt Yglesias’ excellent post), like “how much should a digital book cost?” And as Yglesias writes, whether “the Justice Department’s notion that we should fear a book publishers’ cartel is borderline absurd, on par with worrying about price-fixing in the horse-and-buggy market.”

I can’t help but notice another angle here.  For those not familiar, the current dispute over e-books emerges over a shift in business models from a traditional one in which publishers sold at wholesale prices to bookstores who would, in turn, set the prices they desired — sometimes below the book’s cover price — and sell to consumers at retail.  Much of the dispute arises out of the incentive conflict between publishers and retailers with respect to the profit-maximizing price.  The WSJ describes the recent iteration of the conflict:

To build its early lead in e-books, Amazon Inc. AMZN +0.19% sold many new best sellers at $9.99 to encourage consumers to buy its Kindle electronic readers. But publishers deeply disliked the strategy, fearing consumers would grow accustomed to inexpensive e-books and limit publishers’ ability to sell pricier titles.

Apple’s proposed solution was a move to what is described as an “agency model,” in which Apple takes a 30% share of the revenues and the publisher sets the price — readers may recognize that this essentially amounts to resale price maintenance — an oft-discussed topic at TOTM.  The move to the agency-RPM model also entailed the introduction of an MFN clause stipulating that publishers could not sell to rivals at a lower price.

Whether Apple facilitated a collusive agreement among publishers or whether this industry-wide move to the agency-model is an efficient and consumer-welfare enhancing method of solving the incentive conflict between publishers and retailers remains to be seen.  What is somewhat new in this dispute about book distribution is the technology involved; but the underlying economics of vertical incentive conflict between publishers and retailers is not!

Many economists are aware Alfred Marshall’s Principles of Economics textbook was apparently the first commodity sold in the United States under an RPM agreement!  (HT: William Breit)  The practice apparently has deeper roots in Germany.  The RPM experiment was thought up by (later to become Sir) Frederick Macmillan.  Perhaps this will sound familiar:

In 1890 Frederick Macmillan of the Macmillan Company was casting about for a book with which to conduct an experiment in resale price maintenance.  For years it had been the practice in Great Britain for the bookselllers to give their customers discounts off the list prices; i.e. price cutting had become the general practice.  In March, 1890, Mr. Macmilan had written to The Bookseller suggesting a change from the current discount system and had inserted a form to be filled out by the dealers.

Experimentation with business models to align the incentives of publishers and sellers is nothing new; it is only wonderful coincidence that the examples involve a seminal economics text published as the Sherman Act was enacted.  Nonetheless, an interesting historical parallel and one that suggests caution in interpreting the relevant facts without understanding the pervasive nature of incentive conflicts within this particular product line between publishers and sellers.  One does not want to discourage experimentation with business models aimed at solving those incentive conflicts.  What remains to be seen is whether and why the move to the new arrangement was executed through express coordination rather than unilateral action.

Filed under: antitrust, cartels, contracts, doj, e-books, economics, error costs, law and economics, litigation, MFNs, monopolization, resale price maintenance, technology, vertical restraints Tagged: agency model, Amazon, antitrust, Apple, doj, e-books, iBookstore, major publishers, MFN, most favored nations clause, per se, price-fixing, publishing industry, Rule of reason, vertical restraints

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

Google Isn’t ‘Leveraging Its Dominance,’ It’s Fighting To Avoid Obsolescence

Popular Media Six months may not seem a great deal of time in the general business world, but in the Internet space it’s a lifetime as new . . .

Six months may not seem a great deal of time in the general business world, but in the Internet space it’s a lifetime as new websites, tools and features are introduced every day that change where and how users get and share information. The rise of Facebook is a great example: the social networking platform that didn’t exist in early 2004 filed paperwork last month to launch what is expected to be one of the largest IPOs in history. To put it in perspective, Ford Motor went public nearly forty years after it was founded.

Read the full piece here

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

If Search Neutrality Is the Answer, What’s the Question?

Scholarship In recent months a veritable legal and policy frenzy has erupted around Google generally, and more specifically concerning how its search activities should be regulated by government authorities throughout the world in the name of ensuring “search neutrality.”

Summary

In recent months a veritable legal and policy frenzy has erupted around Google generally, and more specifically concerning how its search activities should be regulated by government authorities throughout the world in the name of ensuring “search neutrality.”  Concerns with search engine bias have led to a menu of proposed regulatory reactions.  Although the debate has focused upon possible remedies to the “problem” presented by a range of Google’s business decisions, it has largely missed the predicate question of whether search engine bias is the product of market failure or otherwise generates significant economic or social harms meriting regulatory intervention in the first place.  “Search neutrality” by its very name presupposes that mandatory neutrality or some imposition of restrictions on search engine bias is desirable, but it is an open question whether advocates of search neutrality have demonstrated that there is a problem necessitating any of the various prescribed remedies. This paper attempts to answer that question, and we evaluate both the economic and non-economic costs and benefits of search bias, as well as the solutions proposed to remedy perceived costs. We demonstrate that search bias is the product of the competitive process and link the search bias debate to the economic and empirical literature on vertical integration and the generally-efficient and pro-competitive incentives for a vertically integrated firm to favor its own content. We conclude that neither an ex ante regulatory restriction on search engine bias nor the imposition of an antitrust duty to deal upon Google would benefit consumers. Moreover, in considering the proposed remedies, we find that by they substitute away from the traditional antitrust consumer welfare standard, and would impose costs exceeding any potential benefits.

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

Investigating Search Bias: Measuring Edelman & Lockwood’s Failure to Measure Bias in Search

Popular Media Last week I linked to my new study on “search bias.”  At the time I noted I would have a few blog posts in the . . .

Last week I linked to my new study on “search bias.”  At the time I noted I would have a few blog posts in the coming days discussing the study.  This is the first of those posts.

A lot of the frenzy around Google turns on “search bias,” that is, instances when Google references its own links or its own content (such as Google Maps or YouTube) in its search results pages.  Some search engine critics condemn such references as inherently suspect and almost by their very nature harmful to consumers.  Yet these allegations suffer from several crucial shortcomings.  As I’ve noted (see, e.g., here and here), these naked assertions of discrimination are insufficient to state a cognizable antitrust claim, divorced as they are from consumer welfare analysis.  Indeed, such “discrimination” (some would call it “vertical integration”) has a well-recognized propensity to yield either pro-competitive or competitively neutral outcomes, rather than concrete consumer welfare losses.  Moreover, because search engines exist in an incredibly dynamic environment, marked by constant innovation and fierce competition, we would expect different engines, utilizing different algorithms and appealing to different consumer preferences, to emerge.  So when search engines engage in product differentiation of this sort, there is no reason to be immediately suspicious of these business decisions.

No reason to be immediately suspicious – but there could, conceivably, be a problem.  If there is, we would want to see empirical evidence of it—of both the existence of bias, as well as the consumer harm emanating from it.  But one of the most notable features of this debate is the striking lack of empirical data.  Surprisingly little research has been done in this area, despite frequent assertions that own-content bias is commonly practiced and poses a significant threat to consumers (see, e.g., here).

My paper is an attempt to rectify this.  In the paper, I investigate the available data to determine whether and to what extent own-content bias actually occurs, by analyzing and replicating a study by Ben Edelman and Ben Lockwood (E&L) and conducting my own study of a larger, randomized set of search queries.

In this post I discuss my analysis and critique of E&L; in future posts I’ll present my own replication of their study, as well as the results of my larger study of 1,000 random search queries.  Finally, I’ll analyze whether any of these findings support anticompetitive foreclosure theories or are otherwise sufficient to warrant antitrust intervention.

E&L “investigate . . . [w]hether search engines’ algorithmic results favor their own services, and if so, which search engines do most, to what extent, and in what substantive areas.”  Their approach is to measure the difference in how frequently search engines refer to their own content relative to how often their rivals do so.

One note at the outset:  While this approach provides useful descriptive facts about the differences between how search engines link to their own content, it does little to inform antitrust analysis because Edelman and Lockwood begin with the rather odd claim that competition among differentiated search engines for consumers is a puzzle that creates an air of suspicion around the practice—in fact, they claim that “it is hard to see why results would vary . . . across search engines.”  This assertion, of course, is simply absurd.  Indeed, Danny Sullivan provides a nice critique of this claim:

It’s not hard to see why search engine result differ at all.  Search engines each use their own “algorithm” to cull through the pages they’ve collected from across the web, to decide which pages to rank first . . . . Google has a different algorithm than Bing.  In short, Google will have a different opinion than Bing.  Opinions in the search world, as with the real world, don’t always agree.

Moreover, this assertion completely discounts both the vigorous competitive product differentiation that occurs in nearly all modern product markets as well as the obvious selection effects at work in own-content bias (Google users likely prefer Google content).  This combination detaches E&L’s analysis from the consumer welfare perspective, and thus antitrust policy relevance, despite their claims to the contrary (and the fact that their results actually exhibit very little bias).

Several methodological issues undermine the policy relevance of E&L’s analysis.  First, they hand select 32 search queries and execute searches on Google, Bing, Yahoo, AOL and Ask.  This hand-selected non-random sample of 32 search queries cannot generate reliable inferences regarding the frequency of bias—a critical ingredient to understanding its potential competitive effects.  Indeed, E&L acknowledge their queries are chosen precisely because they are likely to return results including Google content (e.g., email, images, maps, video, etc.).

E&L analyze the top three organic search results for each query on each engine.  They find that 19% of all results across all five search engines refer to content affiliated with one of them.  They focus upon the first three organic results and report that Google refers to its own content in the first (“top”) position about twice as often as Yahoo and Bing refer to Google content in this position.  Additionally, they note that Yahoo is more biased than Google when evaluating the first page rather than only the first organic search result.

E&L also offer a strained attempt to deal with the possibility of competitive product differentiation among search engines.  They examine differences among search engines’ references to their own content by “compar[ing] the frequency with which a search engine links to its own pages, relative to the frequency with which other search engines link to that search engine’s pages.”  However, their evidence undermines claims that Google’s own-content bias is significant and systematic relative to its rivals’.  In fact, almost zero evidence of statistically significant own-content bias by Google emerges.

E&L find, in general, Google is no more likely to refer to its own content than other search engines are to refer to that same content, and across the vast majority of their results, E&L find Google search results are not statistically more likely to refer to Google content than rivals’ search results.

The same data can be examined to test the likelihood that a search engine will refer to content affiliated with a rival search engine.  Rather than exhibiting bias in favor of an engine’s own content, a “biased” search engine might conceivably be less likely to refer to content affiliated with its rivals.  The table below reports the likelihood (in odds ratios) that a search engine’s content appears in a rival engine’s results.

The first two columns of the table demonstrate that both Google and Yahoo content are referred to in the first search result less frequently in rivals’ search results than in their own.  Although Bing does not have enough data for robust analysis of results in the first position in E&L’s original analysis, the next three columns in Table 1 illustrate that all three engines’ (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) content appears less often on the first page of rivals’ search results than on their own search engine.  However, only Yahoo’s results differ significantly from 1.  As between Google and Bing, the results are notably similar.

E&L also make a limited attempt to consider the possibility that favorable placement of a search engine’s own content is a response to user preferences rather than anticompetitive motives.  Using click-through data, they find, unsurprisingly, that the first search result tends to receive the most clicks (72%, on average).  They then identify one search term for which they believe bias plays an important role in driving user traffic.  For the search query “email,” Google ranks its own Gmail first and Yahoo Mail second; however, E&L also find that Gmail receives only 29% of clicks while Yahoo Mail receives 54%.  E&L claim that this finding strongly indicates that Google is engaging in conduct that harms users and undermines their search experience.

However, from a competition analysis perspective, that inference is not sound.  Indeed, the fact that the second-listed Yahoo Mail link received the majority of clicks demonstrates precisely that Yahoo was not competitively foreclosed from access to users.  Taken collectively, E&L are not able to muster evidence of potential competitive foreclosure.

While it’s important to have an evidence-based discussion surrounding search engine results and their competitive implications, it’s also critical to recognize that bias alone is not evidence of competitive harm.  Indeed, any identified bias must be evaluated in the appropriate antitrust economic context of competition and consumers, rather than individual competitors and websites.  E&L’s analysis provides a useful starting point for describing how search engines differ in their referrals to their own content.  But, taken at face value, their results actually demonstrate little or no evidence of bias—let alone that the little bias they do find is causing any consumer harm.

As I’ll discuss in coming posts, evidence gathered since E&L conducted their study further suggests their claims that bias is prevalent, inherently harmful, and sufficient to warrant antitrust intervention are overstated and misguided.

Filed under: antitrust, business, economics, google, Internet search, law and economics, monopolization, technology Tagged: antitrust, Bing, google, search, search bias, Search Engines, search neutrality, Web search engine, Yahoo

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

Defining and Measuring Search Bias: Some Preliminary Evidence

ICLE White Paper Summary Search engines produce immense value by identifying, organizing, and presenting the Internet´s information in response to users´ queries.1 Search engines efficiently provide better and . . .

Summary

Search engines produce immense value by identifying, organizing, and presenting the Internet´s information in response to users´ queries.1 Search engines efficiently provide better and faster answers to users´ questions than alternatives.

Recently, critics have taken issue with the various methods search engines use to identify relevant content and rank search results for users. Google, in particular, has been the subject of much of this criticism on the grounds that its organic search results—those generated algorithmically—favor its own products and services at the expense of those of its rivals. It is widely understood that search engines´ algorithms for ranking various web pages naturally differ. Likewise, there is widespread recognition that competition among search engines is vigorous, and that differentiation between engines´ ranking functions is not only desirable, but a natural byproduct of competition, necessary to survival, and beneficial to consumers.2 Nonetheless, despite widespread recognition of the consumer benefits of such differentiation, complaints from rival search engines have persisted and succeeded in attracting attention from a number of state, federal and international regulatory agencies. Unfortunately, much of this attention has focused on the impact upon individual websites of differences among search engines´ algorithmic methods of identifying and ranking relevant content, rather than analyzing these differences from a conventional consumer?welfare driven antitrust analysis.

For example, many of these complaints ignore the fact that search engine users self?select into different engines or use multiple engines for different types of searches when considering the competitive implications of search rankings.Rather than focus upon competition among search engines in how results are identified and presented to users, critics and complainants craft their arguments around alleged search engine “discrimination” or “bias.”4 The complainants must have in mind something other than competitive decisions to rank content that differ from the decisions made by rivals; bias in this sense is both necessary to and inherent within any useful indexing tool. Yet, critics have generally avoided a precise definition of the allegedly troublesome conduct. Indeed, the term “bias” is used colloquially and is frequently invoked in the search engine debate to encompass a wide array of behavior—generally suggesting a latent malignancy within search engine conduct—with some critics citing mere differences in results across engines as evidence of harmful conduct.5

The more useful attempts to define “bias,” however, focus upon differences in organic rankings attributable to the search engine ranking its own content (“owncontent bias”); that is, a sufficient condition for own?content bias is that a search engine ranks its own content more prominently than its rivals do. To be even more precise about the nature of the alleged “own?content bias,” it should be clear that this form of  bias refers exclusively to organic results, i.e., those results the search engine produces algorithmically, as distinguished from the paid advertisements that might appear at the top, bottom, or right?hand side of a search result page.6 Critics at the Senate’s recent hearing on the “Power of Google” were particularly vociferous on this front, accusing Google of having “cooked”7 its algorithm and of “rig[ging] its results, biasing in favor of Google.”8

Competition economists and regulatory agencies are familiar with business arrangements which give rise to concerns of own?content bias.9 Complaints and economic theories of harm assert that a vertically integrated firm (in this case, Google offers search results as well as products like YouTube and Google Maps) might discriminate against its rivals by “foreclosing” them from access to a critical input. Here, the critical input necessary for rivals´ success is alleged to be prominent placement in Google´s search results. The economics of the potential anticompetitive exclusion of rivals involving vertically integrated firms are well understood in antitrust. The conditions that must be satisfied for these concerns to generate real risk to consumers are also well known. Over a century of antitrust jurisprudence, economic study, and enforcement agency practice have produced a well?understood economic analysis of the competitive effects of a vertically integrated firm´s “discrimination” in favor of its own products or services, including widespread recognition that such arrangements generally produce significant benefits for consumers. Modern competition policy recognizes that vertical integration and contractual arrangements are generally procompetitive; it also understands that discrimination of this sort may create the potential for competitive harm under some conditions. Sensible competition policy involving vertical integration and contractual arrangements requires one to be sensitive to the potential consumer welfare?enhancing potential of such vertical integration while also taking seriously the possibility that a firm might successfully harm competition itself (and not merely a rival).

In addition to the failure to distinguish procompetitive conduct from anticompetitive behavior, critics´ allegations of own?content bias suffer deeper conceptual ambiguities. The perceived issue for Google´s rivals is not merely that Google links to a map when responding to search queries, suggesting one might be  relevant for the user; indeed, rival search engines frequently respond to similar user queries with their own or other map products. Rather, critics find problematic that Google responds to user queries with a Google Map. This is a critical distinction because it concedes that rivals´ complaints are not satisfied by the response that consumers are better off with the map; nor do critics pause to consider that perhaps the Google search user prefers the Google Map to rival products.10 Thus, critics brazenly take issue with the relationship between Google and the search result even where they concede Google produces more relevant results for consumers.11 Rather than focusing upon consumers, critics argue that the fact that Google is affiliated with the referred search result is itself prima facie evidence of competitively harmful bias.12 On its face, this argument turns conventional antitrust wisdom on its head. Conduct that harms rivals merely because it attracts consumers from rivals is the essence of competition and the logical core of the maxim that antitrust protects “competition, not competitors.?13

Critics´ failure to account for the potential consumer benefits from ?own?content bias? extends beyond ignoring the fact that users might prefer Google´s products to rivals´. Most critics simply ignore the myriad of procompetitive explanations for vertical integration in the economics literature. This omission by critics, and especially by economist critics, is mystifying given that economists have documented not only a plethora of procompetitive justifications for such integration, but also that such vertical relationships are much more likely to be competitively beneficial or benign than to raise serious threats of foreclosure.14

The critical antitrust question is always whether the underlying conduct creates or maintains monopoly power and thus reduces competition and consumer welfare, or is more likely efficient and procompetitive. To be clear, documenting the mere existence of own?content bias itself does little to answer this question. Bias is not a sufficient condition for competitive harm as a matter of economics because it can increase, decrease, or have no impact at all upon consumer welfare; neither is bias, without more, sufficient to state a cognizable antitrust claim.15

Nonetheless, documenting whether and how much of the alleged bias exists in Google´s and its rivals´ search results can improve our understanding of its competitive implications—that is, whether the evidence of discrimination in favor of one´s own content across search engines is more consistent with anticompetitive foreclosure or with competitive differentiation.

Critically, in order to generate plausible competitive concerns, search bias must, at minimum, be sufficient in magnitude to foreclose rivals from achieving minimum efficient scale (otherwise, if it merely represents effective competition that makes life harder for competitors, it is not an antitrust concern at all). It follows from this necessary condition that not all evidence of ?bias? is relevant to this competitive concern; in particular, Google referring to its own products and services more prominently than its rivals rank those same services has little to do with critics´ complaints unless they implicate general or vertical search.

Despite widespread discussion of search engine bias, virtually no evidence exists indicating that bias abounds—and very little that it exists at all. Edelman & Lockwood recently addressed this dearth of evidence by conducting a small study focused upon own?content bias in 32 search queries. They contend that their results are indicative of systemic and significant bias demanding antitrust intervention.16 The authors define and measure ?bias? as the extent to which a search engine´s ranking of its own content differs from how its rivals rank the same content. This approach provides some useful information concerning differences among search engine rankings. However, the study should not be relied upon to support broad sweeping antitrust policy concerns with Google.

The small sample of search queries provides one reason for caution. Perhaps more importantly, the non?random sample of search queries undermines its utility for addressing the critical antitrust policy questions focusing upon the magnitude of search bias, both generally and as it relates to whether the degree and nature of observed bias satisfies the well?known conditions required for competitive foreclosure. Further, evaluating their evidence at face value, Edelman & Lockwood misinterpret its relevance (Edelman & Lockwood in fact find almost no evidence of bias) and, most problematically, simply assume that own?content bias is inherently suspect from a consumer welfare perspective rather than considering the well?known consumer benefits of vertical integration. Despite these shortcomings, Edelman & Lockwood´s study has received considerable attention, both in the press and from Google´s critics, who cite it as evidence of harmful and anticompetitive search engine behavior.17 In the present analysis, as a starting point, we first “replicate” and analyze Edelman & Lockwood´s earlier study of a small, non?random sample of search queries in the modern search market. We then extend this methodology to a larger random sample of search queries in order to draw more reliable inferences concerning the answers to crucial questions for the competition policy debate surrounding search engine bias, including: (1) what precisely is search engine bias?; (2) what are its  competitive implications?; (3) how common is it?; (4) what explains its existence and relative frequency across search engines?; and, most importantly, (5) does observed search engine bias pose a competitive threat or is it a feature of competition between search engines?

Part I of this paper articulates an antitrust?appropriate framework for analyzing claims of “own?content bias” and delineates its utility and shortcomings as a theory of antitrust harm; it further evaluates Edelman & Lockwood’s study, methodology and analysis using this framework. Part II lays out the methodology employed in our own studies. Part III presents the results of our replication of Edelman & Lockwood and analyzes antitrust implications for the search engine bias debate; Part IV does the same for our larger, random sample of search queries. Part V concludes.

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

FairSearch’s Non-Sequitur Response

TOTM Our search neutrality paper has received some recent attention.  While the initial response from Gordon Crovitz in the Wall Street Journal was favorable, critics are . . .

Our search neutrality paper has received some recent attention.  While the initial response from Gordon Crovitz in the Wall Street Journal was favorable, critics are now voicing their responses.  Although we appreciate FairSearch’s attempt to engage with our paper’s central claims, its response is really little more than an extended non-sequitur and fails to contribute to the debate meaningfully.

Read the full piece here.

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

First Microsoft, Now Google: Does the Government Have it in for Consumers?

Popular Media Ten years ago this week, an appeals court upheld Microsoft's conviction for monopolizing the PC operating system market. The decision became a key legal precedent for U.S. antitrust enforcement.

Excerpt

Ten years ago this week, an appeals court upheld Microsoft’s conviction for monopolizing the PC operating system market. The decision became a key legal precedent for U.S. antitrust enforcement. It also cemented the government’s confidence in its ability to pick winners and losers in fast-moving technology markets–a confidence not borne out by subsequent events.

Now this sad history seems to be repeating itself: By uncanny coincidence, news broke just last Friday that the FTC had begun an antitrust investigation into Google’s business practices. Unfortunately, there’s no reason to expect the outcome to be any better for consumers this time around.

There is, in fact, no evidence that the case against Microsoft or its settlement contributed to the spectacular innovation in the IT sector over the last decade. Indeed, they may even have solidified Microsoft’s role as the perennial also-ran in this latest wave of technological progress, as the company struggled to keep innovating under the threat of constant antitrust scrutiny in the U.S. and abroad.

The true lesson of the Microsoft case is this: antitrust intervention in information technology has a poor track record of serving consumers. Even Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, who was a court-appointed Special Master in that case and has since championed government tinkering with the Internet, finally admitted in 2007 that he “blew it on Microsoft” by underestimating the potential for innovation and market forces to dethrone Microsoft, particularly through the rise of open-source software (which now in part powers Apple’s popular iOS).

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

The FTC Makes its Google Investigation Official, Now What?

TOTM No surprise here.  The WSJ announced it was coming yesterday, and today Google publicly acknowledged that it has received subpoenas related to the Commission’s investigation.  . . .

No surprise here.  The WSJ announced it was coming yesterday, and today Google publicly acknowledged that it has received subpoenas related to the Commission’s investigation.  Amit Singhal of Google acknowledged the FTC subpoenas at the Google Public Policy Blog…

Read the full piece here.

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection