Justice Dept. Should Leave Microsoft-Yahoo Search Deal Alone

Today, Microsoft and Yahoo announced a ten-year partnership of their search businesses in order to better compete against Google. The Department of Justice, citing antitrust concerns, is likely to investigate the deal before allowing it to go through. Competitive Enterprise Institute technology policy experts Wayne Crews and Ryan Young argue that regulators can best serve consumer interests by leaving well enough alone.

Ryan Young, Fellow in Regulatory Studies:

“What is there to investigate? Microsoft and Yahoo are trying to outcompete Google. To succeed, they will need to put together the best search engine they can. The firms believe their announced partnership will help them achieve that goal. They should be allowed to try – their own money is at stake if they fail. Either way, Internet users stand to benefit. Bing and Yahoo Search should improve from the proposed partnership, which will also force Google to make its own search engine better, lest it be left behind. This is how a competitive, contestable market works. The goal of antitrust policy is to benefit consumer welfare, but there is nothing regulators can do to make an already fiercely competitive market even more so.”

Wayne Crews, Vice President for Policy and Director of Technology Studies:

“This administration is already suspicious of allegedly ‘dominant’ firms in the high tech sector – but consumers are better off when regulators let markets evolve naturally, rather than guiding them from above. The Microsoft-Yahoo alliance has the potential to offer great value to consumers. The dangers of arbitrarily blocking such voluntary business arrangements, or needlessly delaying them, are severe. Regulatory intervention in the high-tech sector thwarts the natural evolution of the market. Worse, it distorts the response of competitors. Antitrust investigations steer the market in unnatural directions, creating instabilities in entire industry sectors.

“Consumers have more to fear from government bureaucracies that have the power to stop progress cold than they do from free enterprise looking to create the next big thing. Should the Microsoft-Yahoo partnership not pan out, rivals, partners, consumers, investors, advertisers, and even global competitors are perfectly capable of dealing with any challenges to competition. Consumers stand to lose if Washington gets involved.”