Justice Department Sues Google For Violating Antitrust Laws

WASHINGTON—Today, the Department of Justice — along with eleven state Attorneys General — filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets and to remedy the competitive harms. The participating state Attorneys General offices represent Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.

“Today, millions of Americans rely on the Internet and online platforms for their daily lives.  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,” said Attorney General William Barr. “Since my confirmation, I have prioritized the Department’s review of online market-leading platforms to ensure that our technology industries remain competitive.  This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist.”

 “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,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.

As one of the wealthiest companies on the planet with a market value of $1 trillion, Google is the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet for billions of users and countless advertisers worldwide. For years, Google has accounted for almost 90 percent of all search queries in the United States and has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in search and search advertising.  

As alleged in the Complaint, Google has entered into a series of exclusionary agreements that collectively lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet, by requiring 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. In particular, 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.

These and other anticompetitive practices harm competition and consumers, reducing the ability of innovative new companies to develop, compete, and discipline Google’s behavior. 

The antitrust laws protect our free market economy and forbid monopolists from engaging in anticompetitive practices. They also empower the Department of Justice to bring cases like this one to remedy violations and restore competition, as it has done for over a century in notable cases involving monopolists over other critical industries undergirding the American economy like Standard Oil and the AT&T telephone monopoly. Decades ago the Department’s case against Microsoft recognized that the antitrust laws forbid anticompetitive agreements by high-technology monopolists to require preinstalled default status, to shut off distribution channels to rivals, and to make software undeletable. The Complaint alleges that Google is using similar agreements itself to maintain and extend its own dominance. 

The Complaint alleges that Google’s anticompetitive practices have had harmful effects on competition and consumers. Google has foreclosed any meaningful search competitor from gaining vital distribution and scale, eliminating competition for a majority of search queries in the United States. By restricting competition in search, Google’s conduct has harmed consumers by reducing the quality of search (including on dimensions such as privacy, data protection, and use of consumer data), lessening choice in search, and impeding innovation. By suppressing competition in advertising, Google has the power to charge advertisers more than it could in a competitive market and to reduce the quality of the services it provides them. Through filing the lawsuit, the Department seeks to stop Google’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition for American consumers, advertisers, and all companies now reliant on the internet economy.

Google is a limited liability company organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware, and is headquartered in Mountain View, California. Google is owned by Alphabet Inc., a publicly traded company incorporated and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware and headquartered in Mountain View, California.

Source/Seal: Department of Justice • Photo/Graphic: Google

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Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Investigation Reveals Digital Economy Highly Concentrated, Impacted By Monopoly Power

WASHINGTON—The House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee released the findings of its more than 16-month long investigation into the state of competition in the digital economy, especially the challenges presented by the dominance of Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook and their business practices.

The report, entitled Investigation of Competition in the Digital Marketplace: Majority Staff Report and Recommendations, totals more than 400 pages, marking the culmination of an investigation that included seven congressional hearings, the production of nearly 1.3 million internal documents and communications, submissions from 38 antitrust experts, and interviews with more than 240 market participants, former employees of the investigated platforms, and other individuals. The full report may be downloaded by clicking here.

“As they exist today, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook each possess significant market power over large swaths of our economy. In recent years, each company has expanded and exploited their power of the marketplace in anticompetitive ways,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) in a joint statement. “Our investigation leaves no doubt that there is a clear and compelling need for Congress and the antitrust enforcement agencies to take action that restores competition, improves innovation, and safeguards our democracy. This Report outlines a roadmap for achieving that goal.”

After outlining the challenges presented due to the market domination of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook, the report walks through a series of possible remedies to (1) restore competition in the digital economy, (2) strengthen the antitrust laws, and (3) reinvigorate antitrust enforcement.

The slate of recommendations include:

  • Structural separations to prohibit platforms from operating in lines of business that depend on or interoperate with the platform;
  • Prohibiting platforms from engaging in self-preferencing;
  • Requiring platforms to make its services compatible with competing networks to allow for interoperability and data portability;
  • Mandating that platforms provide due process before taking action against market participants;
  • Establishing a standard to proscribe strategic acquisitions that reduce competition;
  • Improvements to the Clayton Act, the Sherman Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act, to bring these laws into line with the challenges of the digital economy;
  • Eliminating anticompetitive forced arbitration clauses;
  • Strengthening the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice;
  • And promoting greater transparency and democratization of the antitrust agencies.

“After conducting this country’s first major congressional antitrust investigation in decades in which we held hearings, heard from experts and questioned the CEOs of dominant tech platforms, I can say conclusively that self-regulation by Big Tech comes at the expense of our communities, small businesses, consumers, the free press and innovation,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. “By reasserting the power of Congress, we now have a thoroughly researched and meticulously reasoned roadmap for the work ahead as we rein in anti-competitive behavior, help prevent monopolistic practices and allow innovation to thrive. I’m looking forward to continuing this urgent work.”

“This comprehensive report is a roadmap to a future where digital behemoths with considerable power over their markets are kept accountable to consumers, small businesses, and their workers,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. “By following these recommendations, we can bolster antitrust protections to ensure consumer choice, data privacy, and affordability in online marketplaces. But in doing so, we must also answer the overarching question that we’ve been grappling with: How do we remain a country where small businesses can thrive, even as we shift from brick and mortar to lines of code? That is our challenge now.”

Rep. Val Demings added, “Our investigation revealed an alarming pattern of business practices that degrade competition and stifle innovation. These companies have made remarkable advancements that have shaped our markets and our culture, but their anticompetitive acts have come at a cost for consumers and small businesses. Competition must reward the best idea, not the biggest corporate account. We will take steps necessary to hold rulebreakers accountable. I thank Chairman Cicilline for his leadership, and will continue to work for a fair marketplace and a tech industry that can advance quality of life for every person without undermining it for others.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and they must be able to compete on a level playing field,” said Rep. Lucy McBath. “We must do all we can to ensure our economy remains fair, our entrepreneurs have the incentive to innovate, and our small businesses are given the opportunity to prosper and create new and good-paying jobs.”

“This investigation has revealed that Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google were committed to drowning out competition through unfair and anti-competitive practices – often doing so at the expense of user privacy and innovation,” said Rep. Scanlon. “We must do everything we can to protect consumers and this report is a roadmap to the work that lies ahead. I look forward to developing and introducing legislation to restore fairness to the digital marketplace.”

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