Google’s antitrust folder just got bigger, after 38 US states became the latest to jump on the search engine giant.
This is Google’s third antitrust lawsuit since October, and has been filed by a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general from 38 US states. The lead states are Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.
Essentially, these states allege that Google has illegally maintained a monopoly in general search and search advertising via anticompetitive conduct and contracts.
And this is not the first legal action Google is facing recently.
It should be remembered that Google was sued by the US Justice Department on 20 October, after it alleged the $1 trillion (£770m) company was abusing its market dominance to weaken rivals’ positions.
Then this week ten US States including Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah and Idaho, also filed a lawsuit, alleging Google colluded with Facebook to break US antitrust law to bolster its online advertising business.
Now, on top of these two lawsuits, Google has been hit by this third antitrust lawsuit from 38 US states.
This third lawsuit essentially mirrors the antitrust complaint filed by the US DoJ, which focuses on the money Google pays others to ensure its search engine is installed as the default search option on browsers or mobile phones.
But this third lawsuit from the US states adds a bit more to the DoJ complaint, in that it alleges Google is also using its exiting monopolistic position in the search market to also collect vast amounts of data as well forcing firms to sign ‘exclusionary agreements’ to ensure its domination of newer technologies as well.
The lawsuit for example alleges that Google bans devices that utilise the Google Assistant from including rival virtual assistants, for example Amazon’s Alexa.
It also alleges Google denies advertisers the ability to interoperate between its own ad tools and competitors’ for general search ads, and that Google uses “discriminatory conduct on its search results page” to limit the ability of search providers, such as Yelp and Tripadvisor, to reach consumers.
Google issued a response to this latest lawsuit in in a blog post written by the firm’s director of economic policy Adam Cohen.
“Google Search is designed to provide you with the most relevant results,” said Cohen. “We know that if you don’t like the results we’re giving you, you have numerous alternatives – including Amazon, Expedia, Tripadvisor and many others just a click away.”
“To get more specifically to the issues raised in today’s lawsuit: it suggests we shouldn’t have worked to make Search better and that we should, in fact, be less useful to you,” Cohen stated. “When you search for local products and services, we show information that helps you connect with businesses directly and helps them reach more customers. This lawsuit demands changes to the design of Google Search, requiring us to prominently feature online middlemen in place of direct connections to businesses.”
Cohen argued that redesigning Google Search this way would harm the quality of search results. And it would come at the expense of businesses like retailers, restaurants, etc.
“The claims being made have been closely examined and rejected by regulators and courts around the world, including the US Federal Trade Commission, competition authorities in Brazil, Canada and Taiwan, and courts in the United Kingdom and Germany, who all agreed that our changes are designed to improve your search results,” said Cohen. “It’s also well established that the most important driver for our search results is the specific query – not your personal data.”
“We know that scrutiny of big companies is important and we’re prepared to answer questions and work through the issues,” said Cohen. “But this lawsuit seeks to redesign Search in ways that would deprive Americans of helpful information and hurt businesses’ ability to connect directly with customers.”
The US states who filed the lawsuit on Thursday are: Colorado, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.