Google responds to allegations from the United States Department of Justice that it’s maintaining an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising.
A lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Google is being accused of maintaining a monopoly through several exclusive business contracts and agreements that lock out competition.
“Today, millions of Americans rely on the Internet and online platforms…Competition in this industry is vitally important, which is why today’s challenge against Google…for violating antitrust laws is a monumental case both for the DOJ and for the American people.” — AG Barr pic.twitter.com/CG8UKXDtZo
— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) October 20, 2020
This is the most significant action the federal government has taken against a tech company in the past 20 years.
Google has issued an official response to the lawsuit calling it “deeply flawed,” and claiming it does “nothing to help consumers.”
“Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
Google goes on to say that, rather than helping consumers, the lawsuit will artificially promote “lower-quality” alternative search engines.
In addition, Google hypothesizes the lawsuit will also raise phone prices and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.
Here’s a complete rundown of the DOJ’s accusations and Google’s response to each of them.
Department of Justice Accusations / Google’s Response
Accusation: Google has agreements and contracts with businesses to promote its services.
“Yes, like countless other businesses, we pay to promote our services, just like a cereal brand might pay a supermarket to stock its products at the end of a row or on a shelf at eye level.”
On Android devices, Google has promotional agreements with carriers and device makers to feature its services.
This helps keep the operating system free, Google says, as well as reduce the price people pay for Android phones.
Rival apps are often preloaded onto Android devices as well.
Google notes that it doesn’t come preloaded on Windows devices, where Bing is the default search engine.
Accusation: Google pays Apple billions of dollars to be the default search engine on iPhones.
“Apple features Google Search in its Safari browser because they say Google is “the best.” This arrangement is not exclusive—our competitors Bing and Yahoo! pay to prominently feature, and other rival services also appear.”
Accusation: Google’s alleged monopoly over search and search advertising forces people to use its services, even if they don’t want to.
“The bigger point is that people don’t use Google because they have to, they use it because they choose to.
This isn’t the dial-up 1990s, when changing services was slow and difficult, and often required you to buy and install software with a CD-ROM.
Today, you can easily download your choice of apps or change your default settings in a matter of seconds—faster than you can walk to another aisle in the grocery store.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Americans aren’t proficient enough with technology to install and use Google alternatives.
Google says that’s not true while pointing out many of the world’s most popular apps aren’t preloaded – such as Spotify, Instagram, Snapchat, Amazon, and Facebook.
What Happens Now?
The historic lawsuit could stretch on for several years, according to technology policy experts at The New York Times.
For comparison, a similar lawsuit against Microsoft took over a decade to settle.
The investigation process which lead to this lawsuit took over a year on its own.
So we’re unlikely to get a satisfying conclusion any time soon, which makes this a particularly interesting story to follow.
It’s worth noting that Attorney General William P. Barr put immense pressure on the Justice Department to file this lawsuit before Election Day.
However, given how long the lawsuit may stretch on, reporters at the New York Times suggest it’s not politically motivated.
Sources: Google, The New York Times