US Justice Department pushes ahead with competition lawsuit against Google as some within the department battle for more time to strengthen their case
The US Justice Department may file an antitrust lawsuit against Google as early as this month, according to multiple media reports citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.
Reports said the decision to push ahead with the case was the work of US attorney general William Barr, while some career Justice Department attorneys have fought to delay the case while they work to strengthen it.
The case remains focused on search and advertising, Reuters reported.
Last month deputy attorney general Jeff Rosen said the department was moving “full tilt” on its probe of Google and other large technology companies.
The department’s complaint was initially expected around the US’ Labour Day in early September, but may now arrive as late as mid-October.
Barr told the Wall Street Journal in August that he was “hoping to make a decision by the end of the summer” on the Google lawsuit.
The investigation is reportedly focusing on allegations that Google illegally abuses its market dominance in search by favouring its own properties, such as YouTube, in results.
A probe by the FTC that encompassed this allegation concluded in 2013 but found no justification for the claim.
But the European Commission has since fined Google 2.4 billion euros (£2bn) after finding that the company’s search results favoured its price-comparison shopping service over European competitors. A second fine of 1.5bn euros over Google’s AdSense followed last year.
Reports also said the Justice Department is looking into Google’s alleged abuse of its dominance in display search advertising by requiring companies that want to use Google’s ad exchange to also use Google Ad Manager to serve their ads.
Google said that its focus is on “providing free services that help people every day, lower costs for small businesses, and enable increased choice and competition” and that it would “continue to engage with ongoing investigations”.
The Justice Department did not immediately offer comment.
The department said in July 2019 it had opened a probe into alleged anticompetitive practices by major tech firms.
The FTC is probing Facebook and Google, while a group of dozens of state attorneys general are investigating Google and are considered likely to join the Justice Department lawsuit.
The US House of Representatives’ judiciary committee launched a probe into digital markets and “anti-competitive conduct” in the tech industry in June 2019, with the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google all being summoned for a grilling before the committee earlier this summer.
Google controls about 90 percent of web searches worldwide and is also the dominant player in online search advertising, controlling more than 73 percent of the market, according to eMarketer.