On October 20, the U.S. Department of Justice filed its long-awaited antitrust complaint against Google, joined by 11 state Attorneys General (Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas). The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The complaint begins with this opening statement:
Two decades ago, Google became the darling of Silicon Valley as a scrappy startup with an innovative way to search the emerging internet. That Google is long gone. The Google of today is a monopoly gatekeeper for the internet. . . For many years, Google has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising – the cornerstones of its empire.
The complaint focuses on Google’s efforts to become the default general search engine for mobile and computer search access points, which in turn endows its general search engine with “de facto exclusivity.” The complaint alleges that “Google has entered into exclusionary agreements, including tying arrangements, and engaged in anticompetitive conduct to lock up distribution channels and block rivals.”
The complaint also alleges that Google is dominant in the relevant markets for search (90% market share, with 95% share of mobile search) as well as search advertising (70%-plus market shares) and general text advertising (70%+ market shares).
Google’s agreements allegedly lock up mobile distribution of search.
The complaint alleges that Google’s conduct has harmed competition by:
Last September, 50 state and territorial Attorneys General announced an antitrust investigation into Google. Yet, the U.S. DOJ complaint filed on October 20 was joined by only 11 state AGs, all Republicans.
Shortly after that complaint was filed, a bipartisan group of state AGs from Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah released a joint statement regarding the filing and the multistate investigation into Google:
Over the last year, both the U.S. DOJ and state attorneys general have conducted separate but parallel investigations into Google’s anticompetitive market behavior. We appreciate the strong bipartisan cooperation among the states and the good working relationship with the DOJ on these serious issues. This is a historic time for both federal and state antitrust authorities, as we work to protect competition and innovation in our technology markets. We plan to conclude parts of our investigation of Google in the coming weeks. If we decide to file a complaint, we would file a motion to consolidate our case with the DOJ’s. We would then litigate the consolidated case cooperatively, much as we did in the Microsoft case.
In addition, it is important to note that the U.S. DOJ investigation into advertising tech is ongoing and may be the basis for a second state AG multistate lawsuit as well.