FTC v. Google: The Enforcement of Antitrust Law in Online Markets
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In January 2013, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) finally closed its investigation against Google based on Section 5 FTC Act. The inquiry was mainly related to “search bias” allegations and Google’s “multihoming policy”. This article will focus on the first subject. After investigating for more than 20 months and reviewing “over nine million pages of documents”, the Commission’s results can be described as disappointing. From an antitrust point of view, the FTC failed to answer the relevant questions for example with respect to the relevant product markets and the analysis of market power in online search. Following some remarks on the history, legal standards, and characteristics of Section 5 FTC Act and a discussion of the role of the FTC in U.S. antitrust policy, this article addresses these issues and proposes solutions not only with regard to the Google investigation, but also with regard to the enforcement of antitrust law in online markets in general.