16 November 2012

Google faced with 'perfect storm' of litigation

Technology giant Google is facing a wave of legal issues across two continents over allegations of predatory pricing and the promotion of products in search results -- in what experts describe as a potential 'perfect storm' of litigation.

By James Barnes

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Both the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the European Commission are preparing a legal assault on Google, reports The Guardian newspaper in London.
The FTC is reportedly looking into Google’s promotion of its own services through its search function, and also patent issues regarding its Motorola Mobility subsidiary.

Privacy policy

The report suggests that FTC chairman Jonathan Leibowitz has given Google a deadline of just a few days to sign a consent decree to cover its future search mechanics, or face a law suit similar to that hitting Microsoft in 1998, which saw the company convicted of antitrust offences.
‘To avoid potential litigation, Google may opt to sign a consent decree,’ technology lawyer Bradley Shear, who runs his own practice in Maryland, told the newspaper. ‘If Google refuses to settle and the FTC files a lawsuit, the FTC may also decide to open an investigation into Google's other practices, such as its privacy policy changes from earlier this year.’

Regulating androids

Meanwhile, the EC is considering whether Google’s Android operating system needs to be regulated. Rivals have argued that the software – which is provided to handset manufacturers for free – is an example of predatory pricing designed to drive others out of the market.
David Wood -- a lawyer at global law firm Gibson Dunn, who also advises Icomp, a lobbying group funded by Microsoft, which opposes Google's search dominance – said: ‘If you never expect to get the money you put into something back, then it's essentially a gift, commercially speaking. But if there's intent to recoup the cost, then behaviour relying on its cost to drive others out could be construed as predatory. It's a well-established form of abusive commercial behaviour.’
Mr Wood added that Microsoft charges handset makers for licences to its Windows Phone mobile software.
European Commission's competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia – who is also investigating the Android operating system -- is weighing up a move against Google over his concerns that its search engine favours its own products.

Storing up trouble

Elsewhere, the Economic Times reports that a California lawyer is suing Microsoft after finding its new Surface device allegedly did not have the storage space the company advertised.
Los Angeles-based sole principal Andrew Sokolowski claims that after buying a 32 gigabyte Surface he was surprised at how quickly he ran out of space. He then discovered that large proportion of the space was filled by the operating system and pre-installed programs such as Microsoft Word.
Microsoft said in a statement that the suit is without merit, adding: ‘Customers understand the operating system and pre-installed applications reside on the device's internal storage thereby reducing the total free space.’

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