State AGs target Google in Sherman Act antitrust lawsuit
Last week, it was Facebook. This week, a bipartisan coalition of 38 state AGs is suing Google for alleged anticompetitive conduct in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and his colleagues allege in their suit that Google illegally maintains its monopoly power over general search engines and related advertising markets through a series of anticompetitive exclusionary contracts and conduct.
This allows Google, according to the suit, to deprive consumers of competition that could lead to greater choice, innovation, and better privacy protections, and allows Google to exploit its market position to accumulate and leverage data to the detriment of consumers.
“Google has managed to infiltrate almost every aspect of Virginians’ daily lives – its name has even become synonymous with searching for something – and that kind of unprecedented influence cannot go unchecked,” Herring said. “Because of the reach and impact that massive tech companies like Google have on our economy and our lives, it’s so important for them to comply with antitrust laws to make sure they do not have a monopoly in the market.
“Google is not above the law, and I am committed to ensuring that they meet their obligations as one of the largest and most influential companies in the world and comply with the law.”
The U.S. Department of Justice and 11 other states filed a similar suit back on Oct. 20, alleging that Google improperly maintains its monopoly power in general search and search advertising through the use of exclusionary agreements.
This new filing adds to that earlier suit, describing Google’s monopoly maintenance scheme as a multi-part effort.
Key points raised include:
- The suit alleges that Google uses exclusionary agreements and other practices to limit the ability of rival general search engines and potential rivals to reach consumers. This conduct cements Google as the go-to search engine on computers and mobile devices.
- The suit alleges that Google disadvantages users of its search-advertising management tool, SA360, by falsely promising that it would not favor Google search advertising over that of competing search engines such as Bing. Instead, Google continuously favors advertising on its own platform, inflating its profits to the detriment of advertisers and consumers.
- The suit alleges that Google discriminates against specialized search sites – such as those that provide travel, home repair, or entertainment services – by depriving them access to prime real estate because these competing sites threaten Google’s revenue and dominant position.
The remedies sought are … interesting. The coalition is asking the court to halt Google’s illegal conduct, restore a competitive marketplace, and unwind any advantages that Google gained as a result of its anticompetitive conduct, including divestiture of assets, as appropriate.