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FTC chief fends off critics over THAT Google decision

'A win for consumers', Jon Leibowitz insists

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The propriety of the US Federal Trade Commission's decision not to take action against Google over allegations of search bias has repeatedly been questioned, after FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz recently confirmed that the multi-billion dollar corporation would not face anti-trust charges.

He has now defended that finding by reiterating his position that Google had not wriggled out of trouble with the stateside regulator, and that consumers would benefit from the agency's decision.

In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Leibowitz said:

We went after a company [Google] where the law required us to do so, and forwent bringing a case where the law required us not to bring one.

He added that all five commissioners looking at the Google allegations found that the "evidence militated against an antitrust case".

Meanwhile, it has been suggested that Google spent around $25m lobbying Washington, leading critics to suggest that such muscle-pumping from the search and ad giant's policy wonks may have influenced the FTC's decision.

Not so, said Leibowitz, who is rumoured to be planning his departure from the agency.

My sense is that the lobbying makes the companies feel good and lobbyists feel good.

At the end of the day, whether you want to say lobbying had any influence, or cancelled itself out because there was lobbying on both sides, if you’re going to do what lobbyists want you to do in a regulatory agency, you’re not doing your job.

Here in Europe, a decision from Brussels competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia about a separate probe of Google's search business is understood to be coming this month. Almunia has repeatedly hinted that he was pushing for a much tougher settlement with Google than the one doled out by the FTC. ®

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