Competition watchdogs jump in bed, compare Google probes

FTC chairman to meet EC antitrust boss for talks


Separate investigations into the business practices of Google are continuing to take place on both sides of the Atlantic and a meeting of minds is set to take place early next week, after the US Federal Trade Commission's chairman flew to Europe for talks with Brussels' competition chief.

The FTC's boss Jon Leibowitz is to speak with the European Commission's antitrust head Joaquin Almunia to discuss their independent probes of Google's search business.

A spokeswoman at Almunia's office confirmed to The Register that the two men would meet to "discuss competition policy matters".

It's understood that the FTC has been pushed to conclude on its findings before the year is out. Meanwhile, here in Europe, Almunia has hit something of a wall with Google's chairman Eric Schmidt.

The EC commissioner has publicly expressed his frustration about how the talks have stalled. In September he growled:

[I]n the absence of satisfactory proposals in the short term – I will be obliged to continue with our formal proceedings.

But since then, Brussels officials have largely gone to ground while Google has continued to attempt to horse-trade with the Commission. Last month, for example, Mountain View was said to have offered to brand its web search results to try to prevent Almunia's office from proceeding with formal action against the company's alleged "abuse of dominance" in the search market.

However, when pressed by El Reg on whether the EC would conclude on its findings soon, we were simply told that "the investigation is still ongoing".

It has been reported, meanwhile, that Leibowitz is heading for the exit door in a few months from now. It's a rumour that appears to be fuelling more urgency on the FTC's part to draw conclusions on its probe of Google as soon as the next few weeks. ®

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