Federal regulators on Thursday concluded a nearly two-year probe of Google with what amounts to a slap on the wrist: an agreement to restrict its use of smartphone patents and a voluntary change in how the most dominant search engine on the Web behaves and handles advertisements.
It was Google’s largest challenge to date from Washington and the company dodged a potentially lengthy and costly antitrust trial by agreeing to a modest set of changes. The casealso illustrated just how much more savvy major technology companies have become over the past decade in navigating how they work the regulatory and lobbying lanes in Washington, as Google spent millions in lobbying and two years working the case.
“It is good for consumers, it’s good for competition, it’s good for innovation and it is the right thing to do,” Chairman Jon Leibowitz emphasized during a press conference concluding the probe.
Google averted what could have been a much harsher penalty from the Federal Trade Commission: antitrust charges that it illegally wielded monopoly power in online search to thwart rivals, the sort of resolution that had been advanced vigorously by its opponents.