35 States Sue Google for Anticompetitive Conduct In Third U.S. Lawsuit

Prosecutors said they are looking beyond fines and may force Google to unwind deals that allegedly violate antitrust law.
December 17, 2020, 7:56pm
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of 35 states—as well as Washington, D.C, Guam, and Puerto Rico—filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google alleging the company illegally used its market power to anti-competitively preserve its dominance of search.   “Our ec
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of 35 states—as well as Washington, D.C, Guam, and Puerto Rico—filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google alleging the company illegally used its market power to anti-competitively preserve its dominance of search. 

“Our economy is more concentrated than ever, and consumers are squeezed when they are deprived of choices in valued products and services,” Phil Weiser, Colorado's attorney general, said in a statement. “Google’s anti-competitive actions have protected its general search monopolies and excluded rivals, depriving consumers of the benefits of competitive choices, forestalling innovation and undermining new entry or expansion.”

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At the press conference announcing the lawsuit, Weiser and a bipartisan group of attorney generals from Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee, laid out how Google has suppressed competitors that offered search services. The antitrust complaint also alleges Google entered into anti-competitive contracts with companies like Apple to preload Google's search engine instead of those of any rivals. 

As a result of its alleged anti-competitive contracts and behavior, the lawsuit maintains that Google has created a "overwhelming and durable monopoly" in search that comprises of nearly 90 percent of all US internet searches, with no competitor holding more than 7 percent and no new market entrant this past decade garnering more than 1 percent in any given year. The lawsuit also accuses Google of accumulating a "gargantuan collection of data to strengthen barriers to expansion and entry" through its forays into new forms of surveillance via smart tech in order to illegally bolster its monopoly.

This is the third antitrust lawsuit targeting Google announced in the past two months in the U.S.

On Wednesday, 10 Republican state attorney generals filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging Google violated antitrust law by using a monopoly over advertising technology to crush competition and overcharge publishers—Facebook was also named as a co-conspirator in this illegal arrangement. In October, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging Google had secured arrangements to illegally protect its search and search advertising monopoly.

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For the past decade, Google and a host of other Silicon Valley titans have been allowed to concentrate awesome amounts of market power into increasingly fewer private hands with little regulatory resistance in the United States. The European Union, which fought Google for over a decade on antitrust violations, has fined Google three separate times for a total of nearly $10 billion since 2017 over anti-competitive conduct to preserve its monopoly. Those fines, and the EU’s rulings, have done little to change anything about Google’s monopoly, let alone encourage competition. 

A similar point was raised in the press conference on Thursday during the Q&A section, to which Nebraska attorney general Doug Peterson responded that because the companies like Google are incorporated in the United States, "we have a broader scope of remedies we can enforce." Peterson also added that "fines for companies this large, sometimes are just perceived as the cost of doing business." To that end, the prosecutors are seeking "broader" remedies such as unwinding illegal deals and ending anticompetitive practices key to its various monopolies.

Google isn’t the only tech giant under fire. The Federal Trade Commission and 40 states filed an antitrust complaint last week targeting Facebook's illegal anti-competitive practices to dominate social media. Prosecutors in that case are seeking to force Facebook to unwind any illegal deals that violate antitrust law, specifically its purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp. 


In Thursday’s press conference and in the complaint itself, prosecutors also indicated they would push Google to unwind similarly illegal deals made to preserve its dominance.