Trade commission likely to decide whether to sue Google after election

The Federal Trade Commission is likely to make a decision after the election about whether to sue Google for engaging in anti-competitive conduct.

According to people familiar with the FTC's deliberations, the commissioners are still scheduling meetings through October with Google and its competitors. The meetings indicate that the FTC is not expecting to reach a formal conclusion until at least November.

"We are happy to answer any questions that regulators have about our business," a Google spokesman said.


FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has said repeatedly he hopes to finish the investigation before the end of the year.

The FTC is investigating whether Google manipulates its search results to ensure that its own services, such as YouTube, Google Maps and Google Plus, appear above those of its rivals.

Google's competitors argue that the company shouldn't be allowed to use its dominant search engine — which has about a 65 percent market share — to stifle competition.

The company says there is nothing unfair about its search rankings. Even if the results did boost Google products, the company says, it wouldn’t be illegal.

The European Commission is conducting a parallel investigation into Google over the same issues. 

The Financial Times reported earlier this week that Google offered to label its own services in its search results to appease the European regulators. The labeling would help users identify what results belong to Google, but the company's competitors are unimpressed with the offer.

"They could still put [competitors] 50 pages down," one critic said. "It would effectively give them permission to do that."

The critic said that if the only condition Google had to accept was labeling its own services, it would be a "coup" for the company. But he expressed skepticism that the offer will be enough to satisfy European or American regulators.

Sources who follow the FTC closely expect Leibowitz to step down as FTC chairman late this year or early next year. The decision in the Google case could be one of Leibowitz's last acts as chairman, and could be the capstone of his tenure.

— This story was updated at 5:59 p.m. with a statement from Google.