WASHINGTON Nov 19 Two U.S. lawmakers urged the
Federal Trade Commission on Monday to steer clear of expanding
its authority as it investigates allegations search engine
company Google violated antitrust law.
The two California Democrats in the U.S. House of
Representatives, who count Google as a major campaign
contributor, asked the FTC not to accuse the company of "unfair"
acts if it believes it broke antitrust law.
Anna Eshoo, on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Zoe
Lofgren, who is on the Judiciary Committee, said there were
reports to suggest the FTC planned to use the unfair standard to
avoid proving some elements required in an antitrust claim.
They said such a move could lead to over-broad authority for
the FTC that could create legal uncertainties for firms and
stifle economic growth.
"Such a massive expansion of FTC jurisdiction would be
unwarranted, unwise, and likely have negative implications for
our nation's economy," the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which
was dated Nov. 19 and sent to the five FTC commissioners.
The FTC is looking into a long list of complaints brought by
rivals of Google, which is also accused of using its dominance
to squash competitors in vertical search areas such as shopping
The FTC staff has reportedly given the commission a report
urging them to file a complaint against Google for suing
competitors based on standard essential patents and asking for
injunctions to stop the sales of their products. Standard
essential patents are supposed to be broadly licensed at a fair
Google is the seventh largest contributor to Eshoo, donating
$13,000 during the 2012 election cycle, according to data from
the Center for Responsive Politics. It is the third largest
contributor to Lofgren, who got $14,500 from Google. The
donations came from a Google political action committee and
employees and lobbyists associated with Google.
Complaints about Google to the FTC over standard essential
patents arise from a raft of litigation between Apple Inc
, Google and Microsoft Corp, which have sued
each other numerous times in various countries, each alleging
that their respective patents are being infringed upon by rivals
in the highly competitive smartphone market.
In many cases, the companies ask that their rivals' products
be banned from stores. Many antitrust enforcers believe it is
inappropriate for companies to ask for sales bans based on the
infringement of essential patents.
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who is expected to leave the
agency soon, said in mid-September that he expected a decision
in the case by the end of the year. A decision could be in the
form of a lawsuit or, more likely, a settlement.
Google has settled with U.S. law enforcement agencies in the
For example, it settled with the FTC following privacy gaffes
during the botched roll-out of its social network, Buzz. Later,
it paid $22.5 million to settle charges that it bypassed the
privacy settings of customers using Apple's Safari browser.
Google also paid a $500 million settlement in 2011 to the
Justice Department for knowingly accepting illegal
advertisements from Canadian pharmacies selling in the United
FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan confirmed that the commission had
received the letter but said the agency declined comment.