The Department of Justice and 11 state Attorneys General sued “monopolist Google.” They believe the popular search engine violated antitrust laws.

The DOJ and Attorneys General filed the 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 Attorneys General come from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.

From the DOJ:

“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.

Congress passed the Sherman Act in 1890, named after Ohio Sen. John Sherman, “to curb concentrations of power that interfere with trade and reduce economic competition.”

The DOJ enforces two provisions:

One of the act’s main provisions outlaws all combinations that restrain trade between states or with foreign nations. This prohibition applies not only to formal cartels but also to any agreement to fix prices, limit industrial output, share markets, or exclude competition. A second key provision makes illegal all attempts to monopolize any part of trade or commerce in the United States.

The Supreme Court placed the “rule of reason” into the Sherman Act in 1920, “which specifies that not every contract or combination restraining trade is unlawful.”

This gave businesses more wiggle room: “Only ‘unreasonable’ restraint of trade through acquisitions, mergers, exclusionary tactics, and predatory pricing constitute a violation of the Sherman Act.”

Google is valued at $1 trillion. The DOJ stated that “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.”

The press statement provided the allegations against Google:

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.

Google has said in the past that it dominates in searches because it has “a product that billions of people choose to use each day.” More from Fox Business:

The Mountain View, Calif., company, sitting on a $120 billion cash hoard, is unlikely to shrink from a legal fight. The company has argued that it faces vigorous competition across its different operations and that its products and platforms help businesses small and large reach new customers.

Google’s defense against critics of all stripes has long been rooted in the fact that its services are largely offered to consumers at little or no cost, undercutting the traditional antitrust argument around potential price harms to those who use a product.

By the way, there is competition. There’s Bing, Duck Duck Go, Yahoo, AOL, Excite, etc.

Yes, Apple has Google as the default search engine. However, in settings, you can change the default homepage to another search engine.

You do not have to use Google.

 

 
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