Becerra, the first Democratic attorney general to join the suit, says Google’s alleged monopoly takes away other possible choices for consumers and small businesses when it comes to internet search engines.
“By using exclusionary agreements to dominate the market, Google has stifled competition and rigged the advertising market,” Becerra said in a statement Friday. “This lawsuit paves the way for search engine innovation with greater regard for privacy and data protection.”
Recently, Becerra was nominated to lead President-elect Joe Biden’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
California was one of only two states, including Alabama, that didn’t initially join the DOJ’s probe when it was launched last year. The 11 states that did join right away included Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas.
The DOJ’s 64-page complaint, filed in a D.C. district court, alleges that Google violated the Sherman Act, which prohibits monopolization and the maintenance of monopolies. Google has created monopolies in general search services, search advertising and search text advertising, according to the suit–illegally maintaining those positions through contracts with mobile device manufacturers, wireless carriers and software developers, costing the company billions of dollars per year.
The DOJ and states that signed on to the probe request that the court to enjoin Google from using anti-competitive practices and ask for “structural relief” that could cure any anti-competitive harm.
Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president for global affairs, responded to the suit in October in a blog post, calling the case “deeply flawed” and saying it would do nothing for consumers.
“To the contrary,” Walker wrote, “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.”
Though Walker acknowledged that Google pays companies to make its search engine the default on mobile devices, he compared it to cereal brands paying a supermarket for better placement and said Google’s search competitors are readily available to use if customers want them.
The case is U.S. et al. v. Google LLC, case number 1:20-cv-03010, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.