The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Google for allegedly violating US antitrust laws. The lawsuit, which was joined by 11 states, accused Google of using anticompetitive and exclusionary practices to unlawfully maintain monopolies in general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising.
In recent years, Google has accounted for about 90 percent of all general-search-engine searches, and almost 95 percent of searches on mobile devices. The DOJ alleged that this was due to anticompetitive, illegal practices, bringing suit under Section 2 of the Sherman Act on behalf of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.
According to the complaint, Google entered into exclusionary agreements that restricted the ways that users access search engines and the internet. Often, this involved a requirement on “billions of mobile devices and computers worldwide” that Google is set as the preset default general search engine. The complaint alleged that Google “unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and search advertising” by, among other things, entering into exclusivity agreements forbidding pre-installation of other search services, entering into arrangements forcing pre-installation of its search service, and using profits to buy preferential treatment.
According to the complaint, Google’s alleged anticompetitive practices harmed competition and consumers. Competitors were foreclosed from gaining “vital distribution and scale,” which largely eliminated competition. By restricting competition, Google reduced search quality and choice, according to the complaint. This, in turn, impeded innovation and harmed consumers. The complaint also alleges Google has the power to charge advertisers more than it could in a competitive market and to reduce service quality, a critical component for an antitrust case.
The DOJ is seeking an injunction barring Google from continuing its anticompetitive behaviors in order to restore competition for consumers, advertisers, and companies reliant on the internet economy.