Following an investigation that lasted over a year, the US Justice Department has issued an antitrust lawsuit against Google, claiming the search giant has made it impossible for rivals to compete by making its search engine the default across a range of devices and platforms.
The suit accuses Google of “unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States”.
If successful, the government could seek remedies for Google’s alleged conduct, in the form of fines, and/or a breakup of the company.
The 64-page lawsuit is seen as the most aggressive by the government against a tech company in years, and is similar in scale to the case brought against Microsoft, which began with an investigation in 1992, saw a suit filed in 1997 and was settled in 2001.
There is rare political consensus in Washington on reining in the power exercised by the biggest tech giants, the Financial Times reported, adding that the case could mark the start of a much “bigger shift in corporate power”.
The FT also reports that the lawsuit is notable for what it doesn’t cover – it does not look at Google’s “dominance in the digital advertising market and steers clear of Republican accusations that its search results are skewed against conservatives”.
The Department of Justice will say that Alphabet’s Google subsidiary uses a range of business agreements to keep out competitors. It alleges that “the billions of dollars that the search giant collects wind up paying mobile phone companies, carriers and browsers to make the Google search engine a preset default”, Tech Crunch reported.
Google issued a brief statement calling the lawsuit “deeply flawed”, adding that “People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives”.
While there are now months ahead of pre-trial discovery and legal discussions before any eventual trial begins, the FT points out that, with investigators also examining the possibility of bringing cases against Apple, Amazon and Facebook, the Google case could just be the start of a long period of legal woes for the sector.
“We have arrived at an inflection point,” Joel Mitnick, an antitrust partner at Cadwalader told the FT. “It’s difficult to see that these firms exit this era without undergoing some change.”
Sourced from Financial Times, TechCrunch