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WSJ: Google, FTC Near Deal To End Search Probe

Google Inc. (GOOG) and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission are close to reaching a deal to settle the agency's two-year probe of the Internet giant's web search business, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter. The FTC could reportedly agree to end its investigation of Google as soon as this week.

The WSJ reported that Google is likely to emerge unscathed from the probe as it will agree to make some voluntary changes to its search practices. This would mean that Google will not be required to a sign a so-called consent decree, a formal settlement with the agency in which the company would agree to certain terms.

According to the WSJ report, it was not clear what kind of voluntary changes Google will make to its search engine results. However, Google is expected to commit to make it easier for advertisers to buy ad space on its search engine and to transfer their ad campaigns to competing sites.

After the FTC commenced its probe in 2010, Google has made several changes to reduce concerns about the company's anti-competitive behavior. Last year, Google reportedly scaled back its practice of using "snippets", or bits of text from other sites and used in Google search results without their permission, after Yelp and others complained.

Earlier this year Google reportedly converted its shopping-search site, called Google Shopping, to a paid inclusion model that charges companies to list their products. Previously, Google Shopping was part of Google's regular search results and competitors complained that Google unfairly placed links to Google Shopping higher than links to other product-search sites.

Google is also said to be close to settling with the FTC regarding patent infringement.

However, the company's search business still faces antitrust investigations by European regulators and by some U.S. state attorneys general.

GOOG closed Friday's regular trading at $701.96, down $0.74 or 0.10 percent on a volume of 2.13 million shares.

by RTT Staff Writer

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