Google Hit With Landmark Antitrust Lawsuit
The US government has accused the tech giant of using its platform to disadvantage rivals and build a monopoly.
The US Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google parent Alphabet for maintaining monopoly power through “illegal means”.
The charges, filed in federal court, were brought by the DOJ alongside 11 other states, and accuse Google of violating Section 2 of the Sherman Act, barring monopolisation and the use of monopolies. The focus of the suit is on Google’s expenditure of “billions of dollars each year” on securing deals to make its search engine the default option on browsers and devices, in addition to blocking other parties from working with Google’s rivals.
The suit alleges that these deals ensure that Google owns or oversees the distribution channels for over 90% of search queries in the US. As a result, search engine competitors “are denied vital distribution, scale, and product recognition – ensuring they have no real chance to challenge Google.”
“Google is so dominant that ‘Google’ is not only a noun to identify the company and the Google search engine but also a verb that means to search the internet,” the lawsuit said.
Attorney General William Barr announced the suit, referring to Google as an “unlawful monopolist” in his statement.
“Competition in this industry is vitally important, which is why today’s challenge against Google — the gatekeeper of the internet — for violating antitrust laws is a monumental case both for the Department of Justice and for the American people,” he said.
The move follows the release of a significant congressional report earlier this month, which found that Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook held outsized power over large portions of the US economy. While the report stopped short of calling Amazon and Apple monopolies, it stated that Google held monopolistic power over internet search engines.
Google called the DOJ’s case “deeply flawed” and maintained that its sector is still intensely competitive and that its practices are customer-focused. “People use Google because they choose to – not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” the company said.
The lawsuit haw drawn comparison to the landmark 1974 antitrust suit against AT&T, which was ultimately forced to divest its subsidiaries into individual companies. It has been speculated that this suit could be the first of a broader effort by the US government to break up the big tech firms named in the congressional report.