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Yelp calls FTC deal with Google a 'missed opportunity'

The longtime Google critic says that today's settlement will stifle "innovation" and that it's now looking to regulators in Europe to take action.

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman
Dan Farber/CNET

Yelp, the local listing service that has long been critical of Google's ways, is understandably disappointed with the FTC's settlement with the search giant. Other than a few minor concessions -- which you can read about here -- the government determined that Google's search practices are legal.

"Today's announcements by the FTC validate a number of the concerns we have raised about Google's dominance in the search market and its anti-competitive behavior," Yelp said in a statement. "The closure of the Commission's investigation into search bias by Google without action, however, represents a missed opportunity to protect innovation in the Internet economy, and the consumers and businesses that rely upon it."

Now, Yelp said, it's hoping for better luck with the European Commission, which has mounted a separate antitrust investigation into Google's business practices. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and the European Union antitrust chief, Joaquin Almunia, met last month in Brussels. At the time, Almunia said he expected an offer from Google this month to settle its additional antitrust probe.

Yelp founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has hardly been shy when it comes talking about Google's tactics, which he has often called unfair. Speaking at a conference in November, he complained that Google ranks its own reviews higher than those by competitors such as Yelp.

"If you happen to be the gateway for the vast majority of users on the Internet and you restrict information and put your house property ahead of everyone else, you potentially harm consumers," Stoppelman said. "We can all agree that's probably not a good thing."

Today, however, after a two-year probe, the five FTC commissioners decided unanimously that Google was not violating any antitrust laws in the way it handles search results. The upshot: Google's search will look almost entirely as it does now, although companies can choose to stop showing their results inside Google products like Google+ Local, Google Shopping, and Hotels.

Yelp's problems with Google have been well documented. The company spurned a takeover offer from the search giant several years ago, and it has criticized Google for using Yelp reviews without providing credit. In addition, Stoppelman testified in Congress over a year ago that Google didn't play fair with its search results.