Thirty-eight states sued Google, alleging that Google illegally maintains its monopoly power over general search engines and related general search advertising markets through a series of anticompetitive contracts and conduct, hurting both consumers and advertisers. Consumers are denied the benefits of competition, including the possibility of higher quality services and better privacy protections. Advertisers are harmed through lower quality and higher prices that are, in turn, passed along to consumers.
The states’ complaint goes beyond the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice and other states in October 2020 (see entry for U.S. et al. v. Google), which alleged that Google improperly maintains its monopoly power in general search and search advertising through the use of exclusionary agreements. The states’ suit alleges that Google engages in a multi-pronged effort to maintain its monopolies.
As in the U.S. v. Google suit, the states allege that Google has deprived consumers of choice by entering into a series of exclusionary contracts designed to deprive actual and potential competitors from distribution channels and the scale necessary to develop a competing general search engine. This suit alleges that Google is employing the same exclusionary contracting tactics to extend its search-related monopolies into the emerging ways consumers access general search engines, such as through their home smart speakers, televisions, or their cars.
To further entrench its monopoly position, Google uses its Search Advertising 360 (SA360) advertising tool to deny interoperability with competing search engine advertising features, thus harming advertisers who are deprived of the best choices available to them. Google also hinders consumers’ ability to access information provided by specialized vertical providers in certain commercial segments, includingtravel, home improvement, and entertainment, by limiting those firms’ ability to acquire customers. The states also allege that Google’s acquisition and command of vast amounts of data obtained because of consumers’ lack of choice has fortified Google’s monopolies and created new barriers to competition and consumer value.
The states ask the court to halt Google’s illegal conduct and restore a competitive marketplace, as well as unwind any advantages that Google gained as a result of its anticompetitive conduct, including divestiture of assets as appropriate. Finally, the court is asked to provide any additional relief it determines appropriate, such as the award of the states’ reasonable fees and costs.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in conjunction with a Motion to Consolidate seeking to combine the states’ case with the pending U.S. DOJ case.