Google Faces Federal Lawsuit Regarding Its Power Over Search Engines
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
Google has been considered the primary search engine for some time now. However, how much of this popularity is due to anti-competitive practices on Google’s part?
The federal government stepped in significantly for the first time in two decades to answer this question by filing an antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant.
The complaint alleges that Google is “unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services” in addition to similar markets.
The complaint points out that for some time Google has engaged in anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in order to boost their success and maintain their monopoly on search engine services, search advertising, and general search text. The federal government points out that the primary method of distribution for a search engine is the default browser in mobile devices and computers.
Google has become the default primary search engine for many devices.
Everyone with an internet-capable device has experienced this phenomenon: you open up the web browser option on your phone or computer, and whatever query you input is submitted to one search engine or another. In recent years, Google has become the preset default primary search engine engaged for this purpose. Although in some cases the user might be able to change this preset default, many users are unaware of this option and would not know how to do so if they tried. This has resulted in alarming exclusivity of Google to search engine users.
Google pays billions of dollars each year to a variety of companies for the assurance it will be chosen as the default search engine.
The lawsuit points out that Google spends billions of dollars each year to enter into exclusionary agreements with relevant companies, assuring that it will be installed as the default search engine. This money goes to popular device manufacturers such as Apple, LG, Motorola, and Samsung, as well as to big-name wireless carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, and not to forget lesser-known but pervasive wireless developers. Not only does this money go to securing its default status as the primary search engine, but it also specifically prohibits these companies from dealing with Google’s competition. In fact, some of these contractual agreements include a requirement that distributors place Google’s search icons in primary places where users are most likely to click and engage.
The lawsuit alleges that Google effectively owns approximately 90% of all general-search-engine-queries in the United States.
When you think about how many people own web-capable devices such as phones or computers, and think of how many times one person uses a search engine in some form each day, 90% ownership is shocking. The lawsuit argues that this 90% ownership ultimately constitutes foreclosure on search engine competition. With the sheer scale of Google’s size, power, and pervasiveness, it is no wonder that other search engine companies have found it utterly impossible to compete.
Google’s near-complete control of search access points makes it unbelievably difficult for users to even locate alternate search engines.
The official complaint brings up additional search engines that have recently been developed, pointing out that one called DuckDuckGo differentiates itself by offering expert privacy-protection policies; still another search engine unnamed but discussed in the lawsuit relies on user subscriptions to provide search engine services without relying on the profits of advertising off user information. The complaint sums up its allegations by declaring, “...Google’s control of search access points means that these new search models are denied the tools to become true rivals…”
The federal government is seeking for the court to decree that Google has acted unlawfully and to provide whatever relief is necessary to restore competitive conditions to the search engine industry, as well as installing measures to prevent Google from committing the same anticompetitive acts in the future.