Google’s dominance in online search came under the broadest attack yet as a group of states filed the third antitrust lawsuit in two months against the internet giant owned by
“Never before have so many states and the federal government come together to challenge a company with such power,” Iowa Attorney General
The lawsuit, filed by 38 attorneys general, accuses Google of illegally monopolizing internet search and search advertising through a series of anticompetitive contracts and conduct, hurting consumers and advertisers in the process.
The case also takes aim at deals to place Google on connected devices, homes and cars, which the attorneys general cast as an effort to protect competition in a new technological frontier.
Google countered in a blog post that it has improved search results in ways that many world regulators had previously deemed pro-competitive.
“This lawsuit seeks to redesign search in ways that would deprive Americans of helpful information and hurt businesses’ ability to connect directly with customers,” said Google’s director of economic policy Adam Cohen. “We look forward to making that case in court.”
The Justice Department and 11 Republican state attorneys general
Colorado Attorney General
“Probably the most comparable case is 20 years ago, the Microsoft case,” Nebraska Attorney General
The antitrust case against
Antitrust actions against large technology platforms have escalated dramatically in the final weeks of the year. The
Critics have accused Google of using its dominance of the online search market to
Google argues that its search engine is popular and free, that rankings are driven by consumer needs and that prior deals passed regulatory scrutiny.
Google has said that the U.S.-led search case is “deeply flawed” and called Wednesday’s filing “meritless” and “inaccurate.” The company argues that platforms’ agreements for prime placement before consumers are common in many markets and don’t prevent users from switching to competitors.
Google also says it faces stiff competition from companies including
Like the Justice Department complaint against Google, the new state case targets the distribution deals Google reached with Apple and mobile carriers that the states say illegally cut off competition from other search providers. Those agreements have made Google the de facto search engine on nearly all mobile devices in the U.S., the states said.
The states also accuse Google of illegally monopolizing search by cutting off traffic to specialized search providers that focus on a particular commercial segments like travel, local businesses and shopping. Those search services rely on Google to get customers and represent a potential threat to Google’s dominance, particularly because their niche offerings are attractive to advertisers, the states said.
Instead of competing fairly against those companies, Google used its gatekeeper role to exclude them, according to the complaint. Google limits the kind of ads those search providers can buy to attract customers. It also blocks certain companies from appearing in Google’s OneBox feature that typically provides a map and listings, the states said.
“Google’s decision to degrade access to such opportunities for specialized vertical providers lacks any legitimate business justification and is for the purpose and effect of excluding rivals,” they said.
Yelp, which has long complained about Google conduct, cheered the states’ lawsuit.
“For nearly a decade, Yelp’s small public policy team has openly advocated for heightened antitrust scrutiny of Google’s behavior, so it is gratifying to see Google finally brought to justice for this specific conduct,” said
(Adds lawsuit filed in Washington federal court in second paragraph)
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