Google Abused Its Monopoly Over Search Engines, DOJ Says In Lawsuit
The US Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, alleging the search engine giant unlawfully abused its monopoly and dominance over its smaller rivals.
According to the lawsuit, last year Google doled out more than $1 billion to US mobile carriers to distribute its search engine and to ensure Google was the default service on browsers.
This included multi-million dollar deals with Apple and Android manufacturers such as Samsung, wireless carriers such as Verizon and T-Mobile and browser developers Mozilla and Opera.
Lawyers at the Justice Department accuse Google of illegally using its stronghold on the market to snuff out competition and hurt consumers through these exclusionary agreements.
Officials also said the anticompetitive practices of Google spending profits made from its already powerful position to buy special treatment from tech companies created a “self-reinforcing cycle” of monopoly power abuse.
“If the 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,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said at a Tuesday press conference.
The lawsuit describes Google as growing from a “scrappy startup” to the “monopoly gatekeeper of the internet” it is today, with a market value of $1 trillion.
As part of the suit, Justice Department lawyers have asked a federal court to stop Google from maintaining monopoly power over internet search and search advertising. It is also asking a federal judge to provide structural relief “as needed”.
If the suit is successful, it could mean Google is forced to breakup parts of its conglomerate, including spinning off the Google Chrome business and its Pixel phone series into separate enterprises.
“Those kind of splitting off of assets to enable competitors to grow and challenge the dominant search provider, Google, are things you could imagine the government asking for,” said Gene Kimmelman, a former antitrust official at DOJ.
In a statement about the lawsuit, Google has described the filing as “deeply flawed” and a “dubious complaint”.
“Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives,” Kent Walker, SVP of Global Affairs at Google, wrote in a blogpost.
“This lawsuit would do 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.”
Google pointed out rivals such as Bing and Yahoo! also pay Apple to be featured and promoted within its search engine Safari.
The lawsuit is the biggest battle over a Big Tech company’s monopolisation of the market since the US government sued Microsoft in 1998 over similar “anti-competitive” behaviours.
In 2013, Google also faced court action with a Federal Trade Commission investigation into its search business. The investigation found no wrongdoing.
Google has paid more than $9 billon in fines over the last several years to competition regulators in the EU.