US states sue Google for ‘monopolistic abuse of power’

Google has illegally acquired a monopoly position that prevents competitors from gaining a grip on the market, say 38 attorneys general of as many US states. The states want Google to stop illegal activities.

In their joint complaint, the attorneys general cite three forms of anti-competitive behavior that Google is alleged to exhibit. In the first way, according to the states, Google is abusing its “gigantic financial resources” to limit the number of consumers who can access Google competitors. The states cite the example of Apple, which annually receives eight to twelve billion dollars from Google to make the Google search engine the default search engine on Apple devices. Google would thwart search engine competitors on Android devices through restrictive contracts with Android phone sellers. With other devices, such as voice assistants and internet-connected cars, Google would study similar strategies.

The second is about Google’s Search Ads 360 service, a search engine marketing tool that would promise advertisers to neutrally compare the capabilities and performance of Google’s search engine ads with those of competitors. In reality, SA360 would have been designed to run very limited with competing search engines, say the attorney general.

In the latter form, according to prosecutors, Google restricts services that compete with Google in certain markets. Prosecutors cite the example of an online travel agency where visitors can book a trip without having to use Google. Google would restrict consumers from finding this website, because such websites would threaten Google’s monopoly position. On the one hand, these successful websites could enter into partnerships with competing search engines, which would be to the detriment of Google. On the other hand, Google could also be active in such a market and would not want there to be competitors in that market. Google, for example, has Flights, a service where consumers can book tickets with airlines.

With the indictment, the states are asking that the court compel Google to stop the alleged illegal activities “and restore a competitive market.” The states also want Google to reverse all the benefits that the company has gained through the alleged anti-competitive behavior. The states refer to the divestment of business units as ‘where appropriate’. With the indictment, the states hope that “ competitiveness will return to the market ” which would benefit consumers, including in terms of quality and privacy protection.

The 39 states indictment marks the third time since October that Google has been sued by a US government. On Wednesday, ten states announced that they would sue Google for multiple anti-competitive violations. In October, the US Department of Justice sued Google for abusing its monopoly position. Google has always denied the allegations. Also on Thursday’s indictment, the company says that customers can always choose competitors and that the requested adjustments would have a negative effect on US users.