US Justice Department Accuses Google of “Anticompetitive Tactics” in New Lawsuit

The United States Justice Department has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, which it called a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet”.

The lawsuit alleges that Google had maintained unlawful monopolies via anticompetitive and exclusionary practices when it came to search-related markets in the US like general search services and search advertising.

“Google’s practices are anticompetitive under long-established antitrust law,” reads a section of the lawsuit. “Almost 20 years ago, the D.C. Circuit in United States v. Microsoft recognized that anticompetitive agreements by a high-tech monopolist shutting off effective distribution channels for rivals, such as by requiring preset default status (as Google does) and making software undeletable (as Google also does), were exclusionary and unlawful under Section 2 of the Sherman Act. 11.

“Back then, Google claimed Microsoft’s practices were anticompetitive, and yet, now, Google deploys the same playbook to sustain its own monopolies. But Google did learn one thing from Microsoft—to choose its words carefully to avoid antitrust scrutiny.”

The lawsuit said that “the anticompetitive effects of Google’s exclusionary agreements outweigh any procompetitive benefits in this market, or can be achieved through less restrictive means”. Another point noted that Google’s practices “are especially pernicious because they deny rivals scale to compete effectively”.

As NPR reported, this legal action is the US federal government’s most significant one against a major tech company in over two decades. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen was quoted as saying during a Tuesday press conference that if the US government did not enforce antitrust laws to allow for competition, Americans “could lose the next wave of innovation. If that happens, Americans may never get to see the next Google”.

The New York Times wrote that more antitrust lawsuits could come from state attorney generals following this lawsuit, noting that around four dozen states and jurisdictions had conducted their own parallel investigations and might file separate complaints. The investigations kicked off in 2019 as a bipartisan effort and won recent bipartisan praise, although there were concerns about its timing due to the upcoming US November election.

After the US Justice Department announced its lawsuit, the website for New York Attorney General Letitia James posted an announcement on the matter. It included a statement that said, “We plan to conclude parts of our investigation of Google in the coming weeks. If we decide to file a complaint, we would file a motion to consolidate our case with the DOJ’s. We would then litigate the consolidated case cooperatively, much as we did in the Microsoft case.”