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US Justice Department files lawsuit against Google for violating antitrust laws

Google is accused of unlawfully maintaining its monopoly over internet search and search advertising.

On Tuesday (20 October), the US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google for unlawfully maintaining its monopoly over internet search and search advertising.

It is the biggest lawsuit brought against a tech company by US regulators in decades; the previous high-profile antitrust actions were against Microsoft in 1998 and AT&T in 1974.

The DOJ along with eleven state Attorneys General filed the civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia intending to stop Google’s unlawful monopoly.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said, "As with its historic antitrust actions against AT&T in 1974 and Microsoft in 1998, the Department is again enforcing the Sherman Act to restore the role of competition and open the door to the next wave of innovation—this time in vital digital markets."

Google accounts for 90 per cent of all search queries in the United States and has a market valuation of $1 trillion and it allegedly entered into a series of exclusionary agreements... that Google be set as the preset default general search engine on billions of mobile devices and computers worldwide and, in many cases, prohibiting preinstallation of a competitor.

The Complaint alleges that Google has unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and search advertising by:

  • Entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid preinstallation of any competing search service.

  • Entering into tying and other arrangements that force preinstallation of its search applications in prime locations on mobile devices and make them undeletable, regardless of consumer preference.

  • Entering into long-term agreements with Apple that require Google to be the default – and de facto exclusive – general search engine on Apple’s popular Safari browser and other Apple search tools.

  • Generally using monopoly profits to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on devices, web browsers, and other search access points, creating a continuous and self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization.

Google responded to the lawsuit and termed it “deeply flawed” in a series of tweets.

A blog post by Kent Walker, Google’s SVP of Global Affairs said, “People use Google because they choose to, not because they're forced to, or because they can't find alternatives.”

It further said that 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.

Cover Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash