In line with the reports that we have received so far, the US department of Justice has officially filed its antitrust lawsuit against Google. This comes after the department has been investigating and collecting evidence against Google for well over a year now.
The full suit can be accessed here.
Much along expected lines, the DoJ has alleged Google of misusing its market monopoly for its own gains. The suit cites Section 2 of the Sherman Act — which deals specifically with monopolies, and has asked to “refrain” Google. Additionally, the department has also asked to seek relevant measures to mitigate the damage that Google has already done so far.
The lawsuit, which is perhaps the most aggressive by a US government in decades, will bring an end to years of investigations and will hold Alphabet Inc. owned Google responsible in the court for its alleged malpractices. Given that other American tech giants are also under the radar of the regulator, this lawsuit might spark ignition to a line of trials and legal wars between the American judiciary and the Silicon Valley.
The Justice Department’s 64-page lawsuit has gained support from 11 Republican attorneys general from Texas, Arkansas; Florida; Georgia; Indiana; Kentucky; Louisiana; Michigan; Missouri; Montana; and South Carolina.
The Department of Justice held an announcement at 9:45 am ET today, presided over by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen on a “virtual pen and pad briefing on an antitrust announcement”.
The Deputy` Attorney General said, “Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth. Google achieved some success in its early years and no one begrudge that. But as the antitrust complaint filed today explains it has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to come petition. So the Justice Department has determined that an antitrust response is necessary to benefit consumers. 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.”
Google has been under the scanner for years now, facing allegations that it uses anti-competitive practices like loading its search engine on smartphones by default, forcing its own products through ads, etc. The company is alleged to be using these practices to maintain its dominant position in the search and search-advertising market.
Several states even started their own probes against the company. Politico recently reported that Democrat AGs would prefer leading a lawsuit from their respective states covering more concerns than just ‘search’ or ‘advertisements’. More lawsuits from other states would land Google in a tough spot to defend its business in multiple places, whereas, the government would benefit from it with more bargaining power against Google.
Jeffrey A. Rosen said, “We do have a line of communication open with them and we’ve appreciated the collaboration that we’ve had. And the cooperative relationship that we’ve had with all the states working through the investigation. There have been some states that chose to join this complaint and some states that are choosing to proceed on their own path but not out of a lack of support for what the concerns are.”
Google was last tried against the allegations of potential antitrust violations in 2012, with the regulators concluding that it did not have the evidence to prove the wrongdoings of the company. However, the search engine giant could not catch a sigh of relief, as Washington continued to keep an eye on Google and thoroughly investigated the company before reaching the decision that might be announced today.
The WSJ reported that Google conducts approximately 90% of the world’s internet searches and caters to almost three-quarters of American adults’ Youtube consumption. The lawsuit might probably target Google’s attempt to pay smartphone companies, networks and browsers to run the Google search engine by default. According to WSJ, this might make the strongest case in DoJ’s lawsuit.
However, it might probably take years to reach a judgment on this case, so don’t expect any quick changes. The DoJ would look to go through all the details in the case thoroughly, before making a decision. That being said, if Google is found guilty this time, it would shake things up a lot in the American tech industry.
The upcoming elections are also to be kept in mind for the lawsuit to proceed. If the current government does not return to power, there will be changes in the DoJ, which might affect the profile and timeline of the lawsuit as well.
Not just the USA, Google is also facing antitrust probes in other parts of the world as well. It has been asked to pay fines worth $9.4 billion over violations of anti competitive laws like search ad brokering and misusing Android dominance, etc. in Europe. Additionally, the company is already facing ongoing investigations in Europe over other concerns of antitrust as well. In India, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) was investigating the company for allegedly promoting its payments services over its competitors.