US justice department files biggest antitrust lawsuit against Google

The search engine giant called the move 'deeply flawed'

(FILES) In this file photo a Google logo is seen on the brand's stand ahead of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, on January 20, 2020. The US government was preparing to sue Google on October 20, 2020 in what would be the biggest antitrust case in decades, a judicial source familiar with the matter told AFP. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported earlier that the Justice Department suit will accuse the California tech giant of illegal monopoly behavior to preserve its dominance in internet search and advertising.

 / AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI
Powered by automated translation

The US Department of Justice and 11 other states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google for "unlawfully maintaining the monopolies in the market" for online searches and stifling competition in the process.

The lawsuit marks the biggest antitrust case in a generation and claims that Google entered into “exclusionary agreements” to maintain its monopoly in online searches and search advertising on the internet.

“Largely as a result of Google’s exclusionary agreements and anti-competitive conduct, Google in recent years has accounted for nearly 90 per cent of all general-search-engine queries in the US, and almost 95 per cent of queries on mobile devices,” the lawsuit said.

“Google has thus foreclosed competition for internet search. General search engine competitors are denied vital distribution, scale, and product recognition—ensuring they have no real chance to challenge Google.”

The lawsuit further added that Google has become so ubiquitous that it is now also used as a verb to search the internet and not just a company name.

The US government’s move comes as Big Tech – Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple – face increasing scrutiny over their practices. The lawsuit also comes more than a year after the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission began antitrust investigations into these tech companies.

"Today's lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed," the search engine said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed. "People use Google because they choose to, not because they're forced to, or because they can't find alternatives.

“This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.”

US Justice Department files antitrust lawsuit against Google

US Justice Department files antitrust lawsuit against Google

Although this is the first significant legal challenge for Google in the US, the search engine giant has faced similar predicament in the European Union.

The EU fined Google $1.7 billion in 2019 for restricting websites from using its rivals to find advertisers. It also levied $2.6bn in 2017 against the tech giant for favouring its own shopping businesses in search, and slapped $4.9bn in 2018 for blocking rivals on its Android operating systems.