December 17, 2020
SALT LAKE CITY – Today, focusing on Google Search, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes helped lead a bipartisan coalition of 38 attorneys general in suing Google LLC for anticompetitive conduct—illegally maintaining monopoly power—over general search engines and related advertising markets in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act. This comes on the heels of a more specific lawsuit against Google filed yesterday targeting certain advertising issues.
Today, the states allege that Google engaged in a series of anticompetitive exclusionary contracts and conduct. As a result, Google has deprived consumers of competition that could lead to greater choice, innovation, and better privacy protections. Furthermore, Google has exploited its market position to accumulate and leverage data to the detriment of consumers.
Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes:
“These are history-defining lawsuits when it comes to technology. When it comes to search in the United States, Google commands over 80% of desktop and almost 95% of the mobile market. As a Congressional report found, Google has abused its hyper-dominance to force websites to give up valuable data, leverage its dominant position into other markets, grow its supremacy in the browser arena and favor its own line of products. This all hurts competition and consumers.”
“If Google will stop it’s abusive practices, we have no problem allowing the company to innovate, compete aggressively and thrive. Google should be credited for a number of things it’s done right in the market. But it should leverage its “right” not “might” going forward.
AG Reyes continued: “We as regulators, and some of us as former tech lawyers and innovators, realize that popular Google products and services come with a cost, even when the cost is hidden. To provide this technology, Google should be allowed to generate revenues appropriately. But, while no products are ever really “free”, the markets should always remain so.”
The states’ lawsuit says Google uses its power to hamper competition in ways that are consistent with the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on October 20. That lawsuit alleged that Google improperly maintains its monopoly power in general search and search advertising by using exclusionary agreements.
But the state’s filing asserts additional allegations and describes Google’s monopoly maintenance scheme as a multi-part effort. The lawsuit alleges that Google:
- Google cements itself as the go-to search engine on computers and mobile devices by using exclusionary agreements and other practices to limit the ability of rival general search engines and potential rivals to reach consumers.
- Google disadvantages users of its search-advertising management tool, SA360, by promising that it would 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.
- Google discriminates against specialized search sites – such as those that provide travel, home repair, or entertainment services – by depriving them access to prime real estate because these competing sites threaten Google’s revenue and dominant position.
The attorneys general argue that more competition in the general search engine market would benefit consumers, for example, though improved privacy protections and more targeted results and opportunities for consumers. Competitive general search engines also could offer better quality advertising and lower prices to advertisers.
The attorneys general expand on the U.S. DOJ’s allegation that Google’s anticompetitive conduct continues. As explained in the complaint, the company seeks to deploy 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, Google is depriving consumers of competitive choices and blocking innovation.
The states also go further than the U.S. DOJ in explaining how Google’s acquisition and command of vast amounts of data – obtained in increasing part because of consumers’ lack of choice – has fortified Google’s monopoly and created significant barriers for potential competitors and innovators.
The attorneys general ask the court to halt Google’s illegal conduct and restore a competitive marketplace. The states also seek to unwind any advantages that Google gained as a result of its anticompetitive conduct, including divestiture of assets as appropriate. Finally, the court is asked to provide any additional relief it determines appropriate, as well as reasonable fees and costs to the states.
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.
Read a copy of the complaint here.