US Department of Justice Files Lawsuit Against Google
The US Department of Justice filed a landmark lawsuit against Google on Tuesday that accuses the company of illegally holding monopolies in search and search advertising, the culmination of a more than yearlong investigation into alleged anticompetitive practices at the company. The federal government alleges that Google violated antitrust laws to act as a “gatekeeper” to the internet.
The complaint says the company unlawfully blocked out competitors by reaching deals with phone makers including Apple and Samsung to be the preset, default search engine on devices. Google also abused the dominance of its Android operating system to strong-arm manufacturers to preload Google’s apps onto phones, the lawsuit alleges.
Jeff Rosen, US deputy attorney general, told reporters on a conference call, “As the antitrust complaint filed today explains, [Google] has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition. If the government does not enforce the antitrust laws to enable competition, we could lose the next wave of innovation. If that happens, Americans may never get to see the next Google.”
Eleven states, all with Republican attorneys general, are joining the lawsuit as plaintiffs: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas.
Google’s dominance stems from its massive digital ad business, a juggernaut that brings in about 85% of the company’s roughly $160 billion in annual sales. That operation is fueled by the namesake search engine, which processes around 90% of searches done online around the world and is considered some of the most prime real estate on the internet.
The tech giant denied it has engaged in anticompetitive behavior. Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, said in a blog post, “Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
The DOJ said it’s exploring several different remedies. “Nothing is off the table,” Ryan Shores, an associate deputy attorney general, said on the conference call. Separate from the DOJ announcement, seven states including New York and Colorado said they plan to conclude parts of their own investigations into Google in the coming weeks. If they file a complaint, they’ll file a motion to consolidate it with the Justice Department case, they said.
This suit against Google marks the highest-profile case the US has brought against a tech company since the 1990s, when the Justice Department and a collection of states accused Microsoft of a monopoly in the PC software market. The DOJ lawsuit comes as tech giants face a reckoning over their size and influence. Legislators and regulators are concerned over how that power might ultimately harm consumers.
Aside from Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook are also under investigation by federal regulators and lawmakers. In July, Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared virtually at a hearing before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO Tim Cook.