Google, the tech giant behind the world’s biggest search engine, has been hit with a third major lawsuit within the span of just three months, which is in-line with what the reports had predicted.
38 US states and territories on Thursday, accused Google of engaging in anticompetitive behavior to maintain power in the search engine market. The complaint filed against Alphabet Inc.’s unit mainly focuses on Google’s search engine, its search engines advertising practices, and the company’s agreements with its partners which allows Google to dominate emerging markets in technology such as smart speakers, and software for TVs and Cars.
One of the accusations made in the lawsuit is that the search giant uses its Search Ads 360 (SA360) service in an anticompetitive manner. The service is supposed to be neutral, but the states alleged that Google steers ads towards its own search engine and away from competing search engines such as Microsoft’s Bing. The complaint also alleged that Google favors its own products, and unfairly ranks them in the search results, while the competitors’ products are often found further down in the results.
The other aspect of the lawsuit claims that Google doesn’t let its partner companies use other competing voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, if their devices come with Google assistant. “Google is preventing competitors in the voice assistant market from reaching consumers through connected cars, which stand to be a significant way the internet is accessed in the near future,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.
The states are asking the new lawsuit to be consolidated with a similar suit filed by the US Department of Justice in October, which also alleged that the company maintains its dominance in search and advertising by unfairly using its power over the market.
The states want the court to find if the company has violated any antitrust laws, and if found guilty, they want the court to order an end to any exclusionary agreements and behavior by the search giant. They also touched on the possibility of requiring the company to sell its assists, but did not delve into details. But what the states are not looking for is a monetary compensation. “Fines are like kicking gorillas in the shin. We fortunately have remedies that are much broader in scope,” said Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson.
Google has responded to the lawsuit in a blog post, which attempts to explain how redesigning search would harm American consumers and businesses.
“Google Search is designed to provide you with the most relevant results. We know that if you don’t like the results we’re giving you, you have numerous alternatives—including Amazon, Expedia, Tripadvisor and many others just a click away,” wrote Adam Cohen,
Director of Economic Policy at Google, in the blog post.
Google seems to be maintaining its position, claiming that the company does not engage in anti-competitive behavior. It is adamant that the actions it takes are necessary to improve the search results.
“We know that scrutiny of big companies is important and we’re prepared to answer questions and work through the issues. But this lawsuit seeks to redesign Search in ways that would deprive Americans of helpful information and hurt businesses’ ability to connect directly with customers. We look forward to making that case in court.” wrote Cohen.
To sum things up, three major lawsuits have been filed against Google since October. The first and third (latest) lawsuits mainly focus on the search engine, and the second lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday by Texas and nine other sates, focuses on Google’s anticompetitive behavior in digital advertising.
Global authorities and regulators have been targeting the big tech companies to keep a check on their power, but America’s approach has been increasingly aggressive this year.
The CEOs of big tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook have been summoned to testify before the congress several times this year, as the hearings focused on content moderation and censorship. The social media giant Facebook is facing two major antitrust lawsuits which were filed this month, and now Google is facing three in total, two of which were filed on two consecutive days (Wednesday and Thursday) this week.