US v Google: Landmark antitrust trial begins in Washington

Tech giant argues users choose its search engine because it is better than those of competitors

Google's search engine is at the heart of an antitrust lawsuit from the US federal government. AP
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US prosecutors on Tuesday will argue in federal court that Google acted unlawfully to become the world's most dominant search engine in what is one of the biggest antitrust cases in decades.

The federal government has alleged Google entered into exclusive contracts with device makers and other companies, squeezing out its rivals. By securing its status as the default search engine on browsers and mobile phones, newer companies have not had the chance to grow, it says.

More than a dozen states have joined the US government in the lawsuit.

“Two decades ago, Google became the darling of Silicon Valley as a scrappy start-up with an innovative way to search the emerging internet. That Google is long gone,” the government said in the 2020 lawsuit.

The Justice Department filed the lawsuit during former president Donald Trump's administration.

US district judge Amit Mehta has tossed out some claims states have made that alleged Google's search page prioritised the company's own services over third-party sites, harming competition.

The US has said by entering into exclusive contracts, Google's search engine is the first users see when they open their devices. Kent Walker, president of global affairs at Google, sought to play down this by contending it is easy to change default search engines on browsers and Android devices.

During the trial, Google will also argue its search engine success is because of its quality over its competitors.

“We plan to demonstrate at trial that our search distribution agreements reflect choices by browsers and device makers based on the quality of our services and the preferences of consumers,” Mr Walker wrote in a blog post dated September 8.

“Making it easier for people to get the products they want benefits consumers and is supported by American antitrust law.

“People don't use Google because they have to – they use it because they want to.”

The case is expected to last 10 weeks could feature evidence from former Google employees, Samsung employees and Apple executives.

President Joe Biden's administration filed its own antitrust lawsuit against Google in January over its digital advertising business.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: September 12, 2023, 1:44 PM