The following statement can be attributed to Geoffrey Manne, Senior Adjunct Fellow at TechFreedom and lecturer in law at Lewis & Clark Law School, and Joshua Wright, professor of law & economics at George Mason University School of Law regarding the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust investigation into Google’s business practices.
The focus of any antitrust inquiry must always be on consumer harm–not harm to certain competitors. We are skeptical that any such harm can be proven here. Google today is not the Microsoft of 1998, and even if it were, subsequent history has demonstrated that consumers are better served by letting rapid technological change play out in digital markets than by heavy-handed antitrust remedies.
We are also troubled by statements by FTC Commissioners suggesting that the agency intends to pursue this case as a so-called “Section 5” case rather than the more traditional “Section 2” case. Commissioner Rosch has claimed that a Section 5 “unfair competition” claim could address conduct that has the effect of “reducing consumer choice”–even absent evidence that the conduct actually reduces consumer welfare.
Troublingly, “reducing consumer choice” seems to be a euphemism for “harm to competitors, not competition,” where the reduction in choice is the reduction of choice of competitors who are put out of business by pro-competitive behavior. The fact that Google’s rivals–including Microsoft itself–are complaining about the company suggests, ironically, that Google’s practices are in fact pro-competitive and thus pro-consumer.
Together Geoffrey Manne and Joshua Wright are the authors of two articles on the antitrust law & economics of Google and search engines more broadly, “ Google and the Limits of Antitrust: The Case Against the Case Against Google ,” and “ If Search Neutrality Is the Answer, What’s the Question? ”
Manne is also the author of “ The Problem of Search Engines as Essential Facilities: An Economic & Legal Assessment ,” an essay debunking arguments for regulation of search engines to preserve so-called “search neutrality” in TechFreedom’s 2011 book, The Next Digital Decade: Essays on the Future of the Internet .
Both Professors Manne and Wright are available for further comment at firstname.lastname@example.org .