A confidential report prepared by staffers at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission found that Google took product rankings from Amazon and other companies like Yelp and TripAdvisor to improve its own search results, according to an article published today by the Wall Street Journal.
The report alleges that when Yelp and TripAdvisor asked that Google stop using their data, they were de-listed from Google’s search rankings.
“It is clear that Google’s threat was intended to produce, and did produce, the desired effect, which was to coerce Yelp and TripAdvisor into backing down,” the report said.
Google has ceased those scraping practices following the FTC’s investigation in 2013.
That’s just one of many allegations laid out in the report, which concluded that the search giant’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.” It focused on Google’s practices promoting its own services in search results over competitors, and found that the company violated antitrust law in certain situations, but didn’t ultimately recommend a lawsuit.
This information hasn’t come to light until now because the report was never meant to be shared outside the FTC. The Wall Street Journal received it as part of the agency’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request, but the FTC subsequently said that it shouldn’t have been shared in an unredacted form and asked for it back.
Prior to the FCC’s inquiry, Google also restricted advertisers’ ability to use data gained from running ad campaigns with the company to help them running ads with competitors. Google has since stopped that practice at the Commission’s behest.
In a similar vein, the report also found that the search giant violated antitrust law by preventing websites from working with competitors like Bing or Yahoo if they published search results from Google. According to the report, the commission didn’t secure any assurances from Google that it would change that practice.
When GeekWire asked Google about the details of the report, the company’s General Counsel said in a statement that the report’s speculation about harm to consumers “turned out to be entirely wrong,” and highlighted the fact that the FTC didn’t end up bringing a suit against the company.
“After an exhaustive 19-month review, covering nine million pages of documents and many hours of testimony, the FTC staff and all five FTC Commissioners agreed that there was no need to take action on how we rank and display search results,” Google General Counsel Kent Walker said in a statement emailed to GeekWire.