Bipartisan Coalition of 38 AGs Alleges that Google Illegally Maintained Monopoly and Stifled Competition
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TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today joined a bipartisan coalition of 38 Attorneys General in suing Google for allegedly violating federal antitrust laws by using anticompetitive tactics to maintain its monopoly power in the markets for general search engines and related advertising.
Filed today in federal court in the District of Columbia, the multi-state complaint alleges that Google illegally maintains monopoly power through a series of anticompetitive exclusionary contracts and conduct. As a result, Google has deprived consumers of competition that could lead to greater choice, more innovation, and better privacy protections, while exploiting its market position to accumulate and leverage data in ways that harm consumers.
“Big tech companies like Google have incredible power over our daily lives,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We look to them for so much of the information that we use to navigate the world, and they use our usage behavior to monetize their businesses. How they acquire and exert their power and influence over our behaviors must be scrutinized. The lawsuit we’re filing today is the result of a broad, bipartisan effort to examine Google’s market conduct and sends the message that no company is too powerful to avoid real accountability.”
Today’s complaint is consistent with a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on October 20, which alleged that Google improperly maintains its monopoly power in the general search and search advertising markets through the use of exclusionary agreements.
However, today’s filing includes additional allegations and describes Google’s monopoly maintenance scheme as a multi-part effort.
The lawsuit 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. One example: Google pays Apple between $8 and $12 billion per year to ensure that Google is the default search engine on Apple devices, and limits general search competition on Android devices with a web of restrictive contracts;
- Disadvantages users of its search-advertising management tool, SA360, by promising that it will 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; and
- Discriminates against specialized search sites – such as those that provide travel, home repair, or entertainment services – by depriving them of access to prime positioning estate because these competing sites threaten Google’s revenue and dominant position.
Today’s complaint further expands on DOJ’s complaint by explaining how the company deploys the same exclusionary contracting tactics to monopolize the emerging ways consumers access general search engines, such as through their home smart speakers, televisions, or in their cars. In so doing, the Attorneys General allege that Google is depriving consumers of competitive choices and blocking innovation.
The coalition also goes further than DOJ in explaining how Google’s acquisition and command of vast amounts of data has fortified Google’s monopoly and created significant barriers to entry for potential competitors and innovators.
According to today’s filing, close to 90 percent of all internet searches conducted in the U.S. are run through Google’s search engine, and Google earned $98 billion in revenue in 2019.
The coalition asks the court to halt Google’s illegal conduct and restore a competitive marketplace. They also seek to undo any advantages that Google gained as a result of its anticompetitive conduct, including divestiture of assets as appropriate.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in conjunction with a Motion to Consolidate seeking to combine the states’ case with the pending U.S. DOJ case.
The states’ investigation was led by an executive committee made up of the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.
The other participating jurisdictions are: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.
Deputy Attorney General Robert N. Holup of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section in the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group is handling the Google matter on behalf of the State.