Justice Department Files Landmark Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google

October 20, 2020 by Dan McCue
A Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Monday accused Google in an antitrust lawsuit of maintaining an illegal monopoly over online search and search advertising.

The filing of the lawsuit in the D.C. federal court came just two weeks after Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee released a massive report on the nation’s largest tech companies, and analysis that singled Google out for having a monopoly on online search and the ads that pop up whenever a user enters a search query.

“A significant number of entities — spanning major public corporations, small businesses and entrepreneurs — depend on Google for traffic, and no alternate search engine serves as a substitute,” the report said.

In a 64-page complaint, the Justice Department accused Google, a unit of Alphabet, of using its business contracts as a means for blocking out competition.

“Two decades ago, Google became the darling of Silicon Valley as a scrappy start-up with an innovative way to search the emerging internet. That Google is long gone,” the complaint says. “The Google of today is a monopoly gatekeeper for the internet, and one of the wealthiest companies on the planet.”

The government accuses Google of locking out competition in search by obtaining several exclusive business contracts and agreements.

Google’s deals with Apple, mobile carriers and other handset makers to place its search engine as the default option for consumers accounted for most of its dominant market share in search, the complaint says, estimating Google’s market share now stands at around 80%.

“For many years,” the suit says, “Google has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising and general search text advertising — the cornerstones of its empire.”

Google responded to word of the lawsuit by saying it will accomplish “nothing to help consumers.”

“To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use,” it said.

Scores of states and jurisdictions have conducted parallel investigations and are expected to bring separate complaints against the company’s grip on technology for online advertising.

On Tuesday, one of them, Texas, also announced it is suing Google for engaging in anticompetitive and exclusionary practices that eliminate competition for internet searches and search advertising.

“Google’s anticompetitive business strategies have disrupted the competitive process, reduced consumer choice, and stifled innovation,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a written statement.

“The violations set forth in the complaint show that Google no longer resembles the innovative startup it was 20 years ago. Our action today is intended to restore competition and allow rivals and next generation search engines to challenge Google so that the marketplace, not a monopolist, will decide how search services and search ads are offered,” he added.

Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, and South Carolina are also suing Google, saying the company’s “illegal conduct” has allowed it to dominate the search industry by requiring exclusivity from business partners and avoiding competition on the merits while shielding itself from competitors who might threaten its market share.

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