The US Department of Justice has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google for allegedly violating antitrust laws, just as multiple publications had reported earlier today. And the DoJ is not mincing any words here, calling Google a “monopolist” that violated antitrust laws to trounce the competition. The civil antitrust lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, aims to “stop Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets.”
“This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist,” Attorney General William Barr said. Labeling Google as the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet for billions of users across the world as well advertisers, the company has been accused of engaging in anti-competitive practices to further strengthen its position in the search and search adverting market.
Justice Department Sues Monopolist Google For Violating Antitrust Laws— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) October 20, 2020
Department Files Complaint Against Google to Restore Competition in Search and Search Advertising Marketshttps://t.co/JTFDO5kJ9d
More importantly, the DoJ’s lawsuit against Google highlights a few “exclusionary agreements” that require setting up Google as the default search engine on devices, and even preventing pre-installation of rival search services. The lawsuit highlights a few alleged “exclusionary agreements” such as:
- Making business arrangements that make the pre-installation of its search app mandatory on mobile devices, and ensuring that they can’t be deleted.
- Signing a long-term agreement with Apple that makes Google the de-facto exclusive search engine on Apple’s Safari browser and other tools where search operations are used.
- Exploiting its monopoly to get preferential for its search engine on devices, browsers and other access points for doing a web search.
Google is also accused of charging advertisers more money than what would have been possible in a competitive market. The lawsuit alleges that Google used anti-competitive tactics, the likes of which are mentioned above, to keep rivals from developing and emerging as a legitimate competitor. And since Google has effectively muted any competition in the domain of search, it has led to a degradation in the quality of search for users, hampered the ‘choice factor’ and proved to be a hurdle for innovation.
Responding to the lawsuit, Google has called it deeply flawed, one that does nothing to help consumers. The company claims people use Google because they choose to, and not because they are forced to or they don’t have any alternative. “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 said in a blog post.
Addressing the “exclusionary agreements” in the lawsuit, Google says that it pays to promote its services and negotiates agreements with companies like Apple to give its services “eye-level shelf space” (or, a position in the UI from where they can be accessed easily). Talking specifically about Apple, Google says the Cupertino giant considers Google to be the best search engine, which is why it features in the Safari browser. But Apple also has agreements with rivals like Microsoft and Yahoo, and that it is quite easy to switch from Google to Bing or Yahoo search engine in Safari.
Google also cited the example of Microsoft, which preloads Edge browser with Bing as the default search engine on Windows-powered PCs and laptops. Coming to the Android platform, the company says that many brands often pre-load competing apps and app stores on their smartphones. The search giant also claims that the promotional agreements with carriers and smartphone-makers allow it to distribute Android for free. The company’s response ended with a hard-hitting argument, claiming that the lawsuit doesn’t align with facts or law.