Regulating Search: Google, Frommer’s And The FTC

L. Gordon Crovitz writes in the WSJ

After Google acquired the travel guide company, Frommer’s, watchdog groups and the “ consortium of competitors to Google” are calling on the FTC to invoke anti-trust regulations on the search giant.  Rather than direct users to the full array of travel sites, opponents of the acquisition believe Google will unfairly redirect traffic to its new company.

From Google’s perspective this acquisition of branded content (a trusted travel guide) will improve the search experience for users.  Instead of handing over a lengthy list of travel guides, a list that would need sifting and researching, Google will feature it’s own content from Frommer’s, saving users the time and work needed to wade through daunting search results.  (Google has also recently acquired Zagat, the restaurant guide).

Crovitz notes that antitrust policies are meant to produce the best consumer experience and not necessarily to shield competitors from the acquisitions of companies like Google.

If the FTC acts on on this acquisition it would overturn its own 2003 agreement that the Commission would not seek “disgorgement of profits as a remedy for alleged violations.” The FTC would hit Google with financial penalties and send a discouraging signal to technology companies.

Crovitz sees this as a rising trend with Silicon Valley and Washington, where companies “substitute lobbying for competition.”

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