A WEEK AFTER she signed onto a multi-state lawsuit against Facebook, Attorney General Maura Healey now has Google in her sights.
On Thursday, Healey announced that she had signed on to a lawsuit filed by a bipartisan group of 38 attorneys general against the country’s dominant search engine.
The lawsuit was led by attorneys general in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah and filed in US District Court in Washington, DC. The suit alleges that Google violated federal anti-monopoly laws by using a variety of tactics to limit competition in search engines and the related advertising market. Currently, 90 percent of internet searches in the US use Google.
The suit alleges that Google “has systematically degraded the ability of other companies to access consumers.” Google gains massive amounts of information from people’s internet searches, which then creates a lucrative market for search-based advertising.
The suit alleges that Google maintains its dominance by stopping competition. “Instead of simply producing a better service that keeps consumers and advertisers loyal, Google focuses on building an impenetrable moat to protect its kingdom,” the lawsuit charges.
For example, the suit says, Google uses exclusionary agreements to limit the ability of other search engines to reach consumers. It pays Apple around $10 billion a year to put Google as the default search engine on Apple devices. The suit says the company also uses restrictive contracts to limit search competition on Android devices.
Google also created a platform used by advertisers to help them manage the ads that show up on searches. Google markets it as a “neutral” tool to compare the performance of search ads on Google and other search engines – but in reality, it favors advertising that appears on Google, according to the filing.
The suit says Google also makes it difficult for customers to bypass Google’s search engine and go directly to their destination. It deprives certain sites that might compete with Google of prime screen placement – for example, sites that provide travel or entertainment services.
“In this fashion, Google undermines competitive threats, limiting the ability of consumers and advertisers to obtain information and make their own choices,” the lawsuit says.
CNN reports that this is third anti-trust lawsuit that Google is facing. A separate suit filed by the US Department of Justice is pending, as is one filed by Texas and nine other states.