Google gets a break in the US, a warning in Europe
Trustbusters and other regulators still have their eyes on Google, which in response has maintained high lobbying presence in Washington. Is that effort paying off?
This week is surprisingly chock full of happenings -- good or bad, you be the judge -- for Google in the areas of lobbying and antitrust. Governments changed their positions on antitrust, rivals combined efforts and Google shifted strategy. All-in-all, it must be busy at the Washington, DC offices.
Some recent events worth highlighting:
- Joshua Wright, Barack Obama's Federal Trade Commission nominee, is a critic of the agency's antitrust probe into Google.
- Joaquin Almunia, European Union Competition Commissioner, says that Google’s window of opportunity to settle is not open forever.
- Google is reevaluating lobbying contracts, reportedly giving some of its 21 lobbying firms a 30-day notice on their contracts.
- Google, Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo, and others are launching a new lobbying organization. Perhaps this is the reason behind Google reevaluating lobbying contracts.
- Anti-Google lobbying group Fair Search, headed by Microsoft, adds three new members: Allegro Group (a Polish auction site), Nokia (the phone maker) and Oracle (the software giant that lost a high profile case to Google).
That is a lot to take in at once.
Both the FTC and the European Commission are currently looking into Google, on the grounds of anticompetitive practices. Google has 67-percent search share in the United States and about 90 percent in Europe. Obama’s nominee is a boon for Google.
Google’s US lobbying must be paying off, after all the company spent $9 million in the first two quarters of this year. Then we hear Almunia suggesting that if Google doesn’t settle soon, the EU will take further action in the antitrust suit against Google. A win in the United States and a warning in Europe.
Google is also cutting back on the lobbying firms it hires, the $9 million Google spent in the last two quarters is in fact more than Apple, Microsoft and Facebook spent combined. But Google is also trying a new approach to lobbying, a new association between other giants with similar goals: Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Zynga, and eight others. Notably these companies all opposed the unpopular Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act.
Finally, there are the new members of Fair Search. For those of you who don’t know Fair Search is a coalition of companies that believe Google is anticompetitive (read: making more money than they are) and lobby against it. Allegro is a Polish auction site, which likely joined because Google is switching to a paid model for Google Shopping, or because Allegro wishes it had better search rankings. Nokia likely joined because it makes smartphones that compete with Android smartphones and because the Finnish company has a close relationship with Microsoft. Oracle's lost Java case against Google is reason enough to join.
I have a question for you. Google says that "You can make money without doing evil". Is lobbying evil?
Photo Credit: meneame comunicacions, sl