Yelp accuses Google of violating FTC settlement

Yelp accuses Google of violating FTC settlement
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Yelp is accusing Google of violating a 2012 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in which the internet search giant agreed to stop passing off third-party content as its own.

Luther Lowe, Yelp’s vice president of public policy, sent a letter to acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen on Monday saying that Google has been scraping images from Yelp to include in search results for certain local businesses.

“Google should be held accountable and subject to remedies sufficient to ensure its anticompetitive conduct does not continue to harm competition and consumers,” Lowe wrote.

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An FTC spokeswoman confirmed that the agency had received the letter and would study it carefully, but declined to comment further.

The letter, which was also sent to all 50 state attorneys general and Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition chief, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

In 2012, Google settled an FTC investigation by agreeing to stop using content from other sites in its “Local OneBox,” which shows information about local business in search results.

Lowe wrote that Yelp had developed software to detect instances of Google using its images in the OneBox results and found nearly 400,000 such instances within an hour.

"For many years, we’ve been in regular contact with Yelp about product changes and how they appear in search results," a Google spokeswoman said. "This is the first time we’ve heard of Yelp’s complaint that images from their site may be appearing in the way they claim. If they’d have raised this concern with us, we would have immediately taken steps to look at the issue and update these results — as we’re doing now."

Yelp has been pushing authorities to crack down on what it sees as anticompetitive behavior from Google. On Monday, Google appealed the record $2.9 billion antitrust fine handed down by the European Union in June for favoring its own comparison shopping tool in search results.

The FTC closed its own investigation into Google without imposing any fines but promised to monitor the company going forward.

“Although our careful review of the evidence in this matter supports our decision to close this investigation, we will remain vigilant and continue to monitor Google for conduct that may harm competition and consumers,” the agency said in a statement at the time.