A federal class action antitrust complaint was filed Wednesday against Google for allegedly leveraging its dominance in the GPS navigation mapping market through improperly and unlawfully connecting Google Maps, Waze, and related services. This allegedly locks app developers into the “Google ecosystem” and subjects them to “egregious and anticompetitive price hikes.”
The lawsuit was jointly filed by plaintiffs Dream Big Media, Inc. and Getify Solutions, Inc. before the US District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit alleged that, subsequent to Alphabet Inc.’s acquisition of Waze, Google captured roughly 81 percent of the navigation mapping market through the offering of Google Maps for free. It alleged that Google constructed entry barriers by exploiting its “treasure-trove of competitively valuable information, including, without limitation, traffic, conditions and rerouting information, interior and exterior photographs, reviews, and commentary from Google+ friends.”
The lawsuit further alleged that Google imposed restrictive terms of service upon developers and engaged in conduct to acquire or maintain monopoly throughout the relevant product markets of Maps APIs, Routes APIs, and Places APIs, as well as search and cloud computing, through anticompetitive acquisitions such as Waze. Google also allegedly used data amassed through its consumer services such as Gmail, YouTube, Chrome, and Android OS to lock in substantial app developer demand. It also gave self-preference over products from app developers who use Alphabet Inc.’s products and services, and it used Google’s market power from other markets to impair actual or potential rivals from accessing data that could allow them to compete with Google.
Plaintiffs argued that Google violated federal antitrust law by unlawfully tying in and bundling the distribution of the Maps APIs, Routes APIs, and Places APIs, each being separate and distinct products, which violated 15 USC §§ 1 and 2. They also argued that leveraging monopoly in the relevant markets of Maps APIs, Routes APIs, and Places APIs “in an effort to gain monopoly power and further dominances in the digital-mapping products and services markets” violated 15 USC § 2.
Finally, they argued that Google violated 15 USC § 14 by entering in anticompetitive and exclusionary agreements with app developers and others which created high entry barriers and unreasonable exclusion of competition in attendant markets. The lawsuit also made a concluding and connected claim of unlawful business practices under California state law.
This development comes amidst heightened scrutiny over anti-competitive business practices of big tech companies in both the US and the EU.