Wednesday, 21 October 2020 06:51

US files anti-trust suit against Google, 11 states join action Featured

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US files anti-trust suit against Google, 11 states join action Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The US has filed a civil anti-trust suit against search firm Google, saying it was aimed at stopping the company, which dominates the sector, "from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anti-competitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets and to remedy the competitive harms".

Eleven states — Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas — had joined the federal action, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

The DoJ said Google, as a company that did not lack money given its market value of US$1 trillion (A$1.4 trillion), was the monopoly gatekeeper to the Internet for billions.

"For years, Google has accounted for almost 90% of all search queries in the US and has used anti-competitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in search and search advertising," it said.

The complaint against Google alleges that the company has illegally maintained monopolies in search and search advertising by:

  • Entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid pre-installation of any competing search service;
  • Entering into tying and other arrangements that force pre-installation 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; and
  • 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 monopolisation.

“Today, millions of Americans rely on the Internet and online platforms for their daily lives," said US Attorney-General William Barr.

"Competition in this industry is vitally important, which is why today’s challenge against Google — the gatekeeper of the Internet — for violating anti-trust laws is a monumental case both for the Department of Justice and for the American people.

“Since my confirmation, I have prioritised 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.”

Google described the DoJ's action as deeply flawed and claimed it would do nothing to help consumers.

A statement issued by Kent Walker, senior vice-president of Global Affairs, said: "People use Google because they choose to, not because they're forced to, or because they can't find alternatives.

"This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use."

For years now, there have been reports that an anti-trust suit was nigh, but nothing has eventuated. In May 2018, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin acknowledged that the DoJ needed to take a close look at technology companies like Google that may be monopolies.

But Google appears to have had plenty of influence in the Obama years to keep such a probe at bay. A Washington Post report in March 2017 said Google's close ties to the White House had prevented a proposed 2012 probe into the company's alleged unfair competition from going ahead.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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