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FTC-Google-Apple: What's wrong with this picture?

Curious. Very curious. Now reports have it that the FTC is investigating Apple for mobile ads, given what they learned from their ultimate approval of Google-Admob, despite that merger raising "serious antitrust issues." 

What's wrong with this picture?

First, apparently the FTC has concluded that the real risk to competition is not Google-AdMob (that had the #2 player Google buying #1 AdMob for ~75% market share of in-app mobile advertising), but a new entrant, Apple, that had no advertising share at all just a few months ago and bought the weak #3 competitor with less than 10% share.

  • There must be a new FTC antitrust doctrine at work here that I had not heard of -- that the biggest anti-competitive threat sneaks up from innovative new entrants with better products and services! Huh?
  • The FTC also appears to be breaking new antitrust ground in implying that a non-dominant company's individual products, like Apple's iPhone, iPod, and iPad, are all individually separate antitrust markets and all basically essential facilities. Huh?

Second, if the FTC really concluded that competition was sufficient to mitigate the "serious antitrust issues" of Google-AdMob, why not let that supposed mitigating competition from Apple actually compete and mitigate the "serious antitrust issues" with Google-AdMob combining? Does the FTC have faith in their competitive assumptions in Google-AdMob or not?

  • In other words, why is the FTC now effectively protecting Google-AdMob from new advertising competition from new entrant Apple, when that new competition from Apple was the FTC's core justification for approving a merger of "leading competitors," Google and AdMob, that raised "serious antitrust issues?"
  • Isn't it strange that the FTC appears more concerned with protecting Google from Apple than protecting the entire marketplace from Google-AdMob's "serious antitrust issues?"    

Third, if the FTC was concerned that both Google-AdMob, and Apple changing its terms of service to advantage Apple, were both potentially anti-competitive, why is the FTC selectively enforcing the law against Apple under a much more difficult Sherman legal standard, but not also enforcing the law against Google under a much easier merger legal standard?

Fourth, why is the FTC investigating behavior by Apple that the FTC implicitly declared was OK behavior for Google to do in Google-DoubleClick?

  • Google excludes competitors from the analytic information competitors need to compete with Google, just like Google is now accusing Apple of doing vis a vis AdMob.
  • Why would the FTC approve Google-DoubleClick's exclusion of competitors by two combining two dominant vertical platforms, Google and DoubleClick, but disapprove of non-dominant platform's exclusion of competition as an advertising new entrant to compete against a dominant provider with 75% share?
  • Isn't it strange for the FTC to apply stricter antitrust scrutiny to a new entrant than to the dominant incumbent? Doesn't antitrust law/precedent suggest the exact opposite, that dominant companies deserve more antitrust scrutiny than new entrants?       

What's wrong with this picture? Disparate treatment. 

 

 

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