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38 attorneys general sue Google for alleged search manipulation, depriving consumers of more choices

Mac-With Google Showing on ScreenGoogle is being sued by 38 attorneys general for anticompetitive conduct in violation the Sherman Act.

The states allege that Google illegally maintains its monopoly power over search engines and related advertising markets through exclusionary contracts and conduct. As a result, Google is depriving consumers of competition that could lead to greater choice, innovation, and better privacy protections.

In addition, the lawsuit alleges, Google has exploited its market position to accumulate and use data to the detriment of consumers.

“Virtually every day, consumers rely on search engines to find essential goods and services,” said Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford. “But consumers do not realize how their choices are impacted by conduct behind the scenes."

Forty years ago the U.S. Department of Justice pursued the telephone monopoly, and 20 years ago it addressed monopolistic conduct in internet-browsing, Ford said.

“As technology evolves, it is important to keep competition alive for the benefit of all consumers,” he said.

A lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Oct. 20 also alleges that Google improperly maintains its monopoly power in search and search advertising through the use of exclusionary agreements.

The states’ lawsuit also alleges that Google:

  • Uses exclusionary agreements and other practices to limit the ability of rival search engines and potential rivals to reach consumers. This guarantees Google is the go-to search engine on computers and mobile devices.
  • Disadvantages users of its search-advertising management tool, SA360, by promising that it wouldn’t favor Google search advertising over that of competing search engines such as Bing. However, Google continuously favors advertising on its own platform, inflating its profits to the detriment of advertisers and consumers.
  • Discriminates against specialized search sites – for travel, home repair, entertainment, and other topics – by depriving them access because competing sites threaten Google’s revenue and dominant position.

The attorneys general argue that more competition in the search engine market would benefit consumers, for example, through improved privacy protections and more targeted results and opportunities for consumers. Competitive search engines also could offer better quality advertising and lower prices to advertisers.  

In addition, Google uses the same exclusionary contracting tactics to monopolize the increasing ways consumers access search engines, such as through their home smart speakers and televisions, or in their cars. With these tactics, Google is depriving consumers of competitive choices and blocking innovation. 

The attorneys general ask the court to stop Google’s illegal conduct and restore a competitive marketplace.

They also seek to undo any advantages that Google received due to its anticompetitive conduct, such require the company to sell assets.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, along with a motion asking to combine the states’ case with the pending Justice Department case.

In addition to Nevada, among the other states bringing the lawsuit are: Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

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