US Judge Narrows Google Antitrust Cases

A US federal judge has allowed antitrust cases by the Justice Department and 38 states attorney general against Google to go ahead, while throwing out some of the enforcers’ arguments.

The decision means the cases can go to trial as planned on 12 September, but that the enforcers will not be able to present all of their arguments.

Google had asked for a summary judgement on all the claims.

US District Judge Amit Mehta agreed to Google’s request on some counts, notably throwing out an argument by the state enforcers that the search firm’s results unfairly disadvantaged competitors such as Yelp and Tripadvisor.

Claims narrowed

The states had argued Google’s search results unfairly disadvantaged those competitors by downgrading their listings in search results.

Google argued it was better for customers to connect them directly to businesses, rather than middlemen.

“We appreciate the Court’s careful consideration and decision to dismiss claims regarding the design of Google Search,” said Google chief legal officer Kent Walker in a statement.

Mehta also threw out arguments by the Justice Department involving contracts Google made involving its Android operating system, Google Assistant smart speakers and other internet-connected devices, as well as arguments regarding Google’s management of its Android Open Source Project.

Exclusive contracts

The judge noted that the Justice Department had chosen not to contest Google’s request for a summary judgement on those particular points.

The central claim made by both the Justice Department and the states, regarding Google’s alleged use of exclusive contracts to unfairly maintain its search monopoly, was allowed to largely go ahead.

“There remain genuine disputes of material fact that warrant a trial,” Mehta wrote.

He also allowed claims to go forward regarding Google’s search ad tool SA360, saying there was a “genuine dispute of material fact with regard to the anticompetitive effect of Google’s disparate development of” the tool’s ad-buying features.

Regulatory pressure

“I am pleased that the multistate attorneys general lawsuit challenging Google’s monopoly in the search engine market and search advertising will proceed to trial in September,” said Colorado attorney general Phil Weiser in a statement.

The Justice Department and the 38 states filed separate complaints against Google in 2020, and the two have been combined for pretrial purposes.

The company faces numerous other antitrust actions around the world, including the European Union and the UK, targeting both its search and advertising businesses.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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