US Department of Justice files lawsuit against Google

Written by Jennifer Allen

October 21, 2020 | 15:00

Tags: #antitrust #business #lawsuit

Companies: #department-of-justice #google

The US Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google alleging that it's abusing its dominance over smaller rivals. 

In the lawsuit, it's been claimed that Google has "maintained and abused its monopoly power in general search services through anticompetitive and exclusionary distribution agreements that lock up the preset default positions for search access points on browsers, mobile devices, computers, and other devices." It goes on to state that while two decades ago, Google was a "scrappy startup with an innovative way to search the emerging internet" that Google is no longer anything like this, describing Google as "[using] 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."

Citing examples of exclusionary agreements such as the deals arranged with Apple making Google the default search engine on Safari browsers on iPhones, the Department of Justice suggests that Google has spent much of its profits on ways in which to buy special treatment for its search engine as well as Chrome browser, thereby creating a "self-reinforcing cycle" of monopoly power abuse.

In a statement, US Attorney General William Barr explained that the Antitrust Division has spent the past 16 months collecting evidence that shows that Google no longer competes on its merits, instead using its monopoly powers and profits to dominate the online search market. 

The statement goes onto cite the Department of Justice's 1998 lawsuit against Microsoft as an example of a settlement that led to a more competitive environment at the time which would go on to enable companies like Google to grow at such a rate. 

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen suggested in a press conference that "if the [US] government does not enforce the antitrust laws to enable competition, we could lose the next wave of innovation. If that happens, Americans may never get to see the next Google."

The lawsuit is asking a federal judge to provide structural relief "as needed" to resolve the anticompetitive behaviour that the US government believes Google is participating in. NPR believes, if successful, that could mean the breakup of parts of Google's business and splitting off of assets but we'll have to wait and see just what comes of this plan. 

Google has, of course, released a statement and described the lawsuit as "deeply flawed" suggesting that people use Google "because they choose to" and not because they're forced to. It adds that such a lawsuit does nothing to help consumers and that "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."

Don't expect this to be quickly resolved. The aforementioned lawsuit against Microsoft took around three years to be concluded. 

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