Google Asks US Court To Dismiss Federal Adtech Case

Google on Friday asked a Virginia federal court to reject a lawsuit filed last January by the US federal government and the attorneys general of eight states over alleged anticompetitive conduct in the advertising technology business.

The company told the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia that the US Justice Department’s case went “beyond the boundaries of antitrust law”, which does not prohibit the conduct described in the lawsuit, Reuters reported.

Google said in its filing the government’s case was “doomed” because the business acts it attacks “are lawful choices about whom to do business with and product improvements that benefited Google’s customers”.

In its lawsuit the Justice Department said Google engaged in a pattern of acquiring competitors to obtain control over key digital advertising tools used by website publishers to sell advertising space, forcing adoption of Google’s tools, distorting auction competition and manipulating auction mechanics across its products to insulate itself from competition.

Image credit: Unsplash

‘Exclusionary’

Google “used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful conduct to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies”, said US attorney general Merrick B. Garland at the time.

Deputy attorney general Lisa O. Monaco added that Google had “caused great harm to online publishers and advertisers and American consumers” in pursuit of “outsized profits”.

The attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia participated in the lawsuit, which seeks to break up Google’s ad technology business by forcing it to sell its Ad Manager exchange platform.

US District Judge Leonie Brinkema has scheduled trial in the case for September and has the power to narrow the lawsuit’s scope prior to trial or dismiss the case.

Both sides can seek summary judgement in their favour, a process whereby a judge decides the case based on facts and law without moving to a full trial.

Market dominance

Google is set for a separate trial in March 2025 in Texas federal court in a lawsuit filed by Texas and other states that also alleges anticompetitive conduct in the adtech market, in this case collusion with Facebook parent Meta to compete against a rival technology called “header bidding” that was developed by publishers to bring in a larger share of advertising revenues.

The Justice Department requested last week to file a statement of interest in the Texas lawsuit, saying its Virginia suit was subtantially similar.

Google has faced a number of lawsuits in the US and Europe over allegedly anticompetitive adtech practices, including a lawsuit filed in February by European media firms Axel Springer, Schibsted and 30 others.

Last year US newspaper publisher Gannett and two collective UK actions targeted Google over similar issues, while the European Commission formally warned the search and advertising giant of allegedly abusive adtech practices.

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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