After more than a year of well-publicized scrutiny, Google faces a suit brought by the federal government alleging unfair search and advertising practices.
According to CNBC, the Justice Department and 11 state attorneys general (all Republicans) have filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging Google maintained illegal monopolies in its general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising. In September 2019, media reports indicated the Texas attorney general was leading a probe by all 50 states into Google’s advertising practices.
The suit alleges that claims Google controls 88% of the U.S. search market and more than 70% of the U.S. search ad market, as well as hosts 94% of mobile searches. Google is accused of using this position to unfairly dominate the search market and charge inflated prices for services which would be higher-quality with more balanced competition.
Google has rejected the government’s claims in a blog post from senior VP of government affairs Kent Walker. Among Walker’s arguments against what he terms a “dubious complaint” are that people use Google because they choose to, Google competitors come as the preloaded search engine on Apple and Windows devices, and that 60% of searches to buy something actually start on Amazon.
Google is no stranger to government inquiries, both inside and outside the U.S. In July 2019, representatives from Google joined executives from Apple, Amazon, and Facebook to testify in a Washington, D.C., hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel. This move followed increasing calls, including from the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), for the federal government to determine if major technology platforms enjoy an unfair advantage in e-commerce and consumer Internet usage.
And in March 2019, the European Commission, which implements decisions and manages day-to-day operations for the EU, fined Google $1.7 billion for what it called “abusive practices” in online advertising. In January 2019, a French regulatory body fined Google $57 million for what it said were violations of the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guarding consumer privacy.
The states joining the lawsuit are Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.