After an 11-month investigation, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has declared that search engine companies must clearly disclose to consumers the presence of paid placements displayed within search results. A number of search engine companies have been selling the top spots on search result lists. In many cases, it was not clear whether these paid placements were part of the actual results of the search. The FTC began its investigation after a complaint was received from the U.S. consumer group Commercial Alert regarding paid listings within search results. AltaVista, AOL Time Warner, Direct Hit Technologies, iWon, LookSmart, Microsoft and Terra Lycos were the companies named in the complaint. The FTC has sent letters regarding its decision to these companies. The FTC has, however, said that it would not take formal action at this time against the companies, noting that a number of the companies have already taken steps to flag paid listings. For a copy of the Complaint by Commercial Alert, visit: For a copy of the letter sent out to the search engine companies by the FTC, visit:


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