The Market Realities that Undermined the FTC’s Antitrust Case Against Google
The FTC completed its antitrust investigation of Google early this year and, finding no evidence of antitrust violations, decided not to bring an enforcement action against the company. Although the FTC has concluded its investigation, Google’s competitors and critics, unhappy with the outcome, continue to raise issues and criticize the FTC’s decision. In this brief article we discuss the FTC’s decision and assess the merits of the claims still being raised. The critics’ case against Google rests on certain assumptions about how the markets in which it operates function. But these are technology markets, constantly evolving and complex; most assumptions, and even “conclusions” based on data, are imperfect at best. The market realities in which Google operates, while not dispositive, strongly challenge the logic and thus the relevance of many of the contentions still being maintained by Google’s critics.
The public claims by Google’s critics and the best information we have on the thinking of the regulators investigating the company reflect an over-simplified and inaccurate conception of the competitive conditions facing Google and its competitors. The reality is far more complex and, if properly understood, paints a picture that undermines the basic, essential elements of an antitrust case against the company.
Competitors continue to claim that their problems competing with Google are cognizable antitrust problems rather than the consequences of vigorous competition, shifting consumer demand, and their own business decisions. However, there is significant evidence indicating that these claims are unfounded, and the FTC, which undertook the most thorough examination of the issues to date, found unanimously that no antitrust action based on such claims was viable.