Federal Trade Commission Stories September 4
Federal Trade Commission Stories September 25, 2015
Google must wonder whether it will ever be free from antitrust investigations. Following antitrust charges against its search business (cleared in the USA, upheld in Europe), the EU filed a second complaint that Google had abused its dominant position in the mobile field to favor its own Android apps. The allegation is that Google forced smartphone companies to favor Google apps over rival ones in return for permission to use Android. Bloomberg reports that the U.S. appears to be opening a similar investigation in the USA.
The Federal Trade Commission reached an agreement with the Justice Department to spearhead an investigation of Google’s Android business, [two sources] said. FTC officials have met with technology company representatives who say Google gives priority to its own services on the Android platform …
Federal Trade Commission Stories July 29, 2015
AT&T doesn’t want to be throttled for throttling customers
It seems AT&T thinks throttling the data speeds of customers without telling them about it isn’t such a big deal. The Federal Trade Commission sued AT&T back in 2014 for “deceptive and unfair data throttling” after the company imposed caps on unlimited data contracts, beyond which it reduced their data speeds by almost 90%. The Federal Communications Commission joined the party last month, fining AT&T $100 million – and The Hill reports that the carrier now wants that fine reduced to just $16,000.
The Commission’s findings that consumers and competition were harmed are devoid of factual support and wholly implausible,” the company wrote in its filing. “Its ‘moderate’ forfeiture penalty of $100 million is plucked out of thin air, and the injunctive sanctions it proposes are beyond the Commission’s authority.”
The FTC had stated that it could legally have imposed fines of $16,000 per affected consumer, but that would have resulted in an “astronomic” fine, so chose to limit the total penalty to one large enough to deter future violations. AT&T had originally claimed that it was doing nothing wrong, but Ars Technica notes that the company amended its policy in May so that throttling was applied only when the network was congested.
AT&T has not offered unlimited data plans to new customers for some years, but has a small-ish group of customers who remain on grandfathered plans which remain valid for as long as the customer retains the plan.
Federal Trade Commission Stories May 19, 2015
Google’s family-friendly YouTube Kids app has been hit with a second complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, this time accusing it of containing inappropriate content, including sexually-explicit language and “jokes about pedophilia.” This follows a complaint last month that the app was “deceptive to children” in the way it mixed ads into the programming.
The WSJ reports that the complaint was sent by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy.
Examples of what the non-profit groups found include: explicit sexual language in cartoons; jokes about pedophilia and drug use; activities such as juggling knives, tasting battery acid, and making a noose; and adult discussions about family violence, pornography, and child suicide.
The group created a video (below) illustrating the inappropriate content found … expand full story
Federal Trade Commission Stories April 15, 2015
As expected, the EU has formally accused Google of abusing its dominant position in search to favor links to its own products over those offered by competitors. The complaint takes the form of a Statement of Objections: a formal method of announcing that it believes Google has acted illegally and that a full investigation is underway.
The Commission’s preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers. EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that “Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary. However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.”
Google has not wasted any time in attempting to convince the Commission otherwise, arguing in a blog post that the evidence shows that Google has not harmed traffic to competitor websites … expand full story
Federal Trade Commission Stories March 31, 2015
Chair of Senate antitrust panel looking into conversations between Google and FTC
Senator Mike Lee, who chairs the Senate’s antitrust panel, will conduct a “preliminary inquiry” into whether conversations Google had with FTC investigators influenced the commission’s decision to clear the company of anti-competitive behavior, reports the WSJ.
The senator could later expand his inquiry to include conversations people in the White House had with the FTC and Google, people in his office said.
The FTC last week denied that its decision had been “a close call” following leaked documents suggesting that it had been. The documents also provided some fascinating insights into Google’s business model.
Google declined to comment on this latest development, but has previously said that its meetings in the White House were not related to the FTC investigation.