Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is leading a bipartisan coalition of 38 attorneys general in suing Google LLC for anticompetitive conduct in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act.
The states allege that Google illegally maintains its monopoly power over general search engines and related advertising markets through a series of anticompetitive exclusionary contracts and conduct. As a result, Google has deprived consumers of competition that could lead to greater choice, innovation, and better privacy protections. Furthermore, Google has exploited its market position to accumulate and leverage data to the detriment of consumers.
“Combined with the other recent lawsuits filed against Google, never before have so many states and the federal government come together to challenge a company with such power,” Miller said. “Google has more data on consumers, and more variety of information, than perhaps any entity in history.”
The states’ complaint, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is consistent with the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Oct. 20, which alleged that Google improperly maintains its monopoly power in general search and search advertising through the use of exclusionary agreements.
The state’s filing asserts additional allegations and describes Google’s monopoly maintenance scheme as a multi-part effort. The lawsuit alleges that Google:
- Uses exclusionary agreements and other practices to limit the ability of rival general search engines and potential rivals to reach consumers. This conduct cements Google as the go-to search engine on computers and mobile devices.
- Deceives users of its search-advertising management tool, SA360, by promising that it would not favor Google search advertising over that of competing search engines such as Bing. Instead, Google continuously favors advertising on its own platform, inflating its profits to the detriment of advertisers and consumers.
- Discriminates against specialized search sites — such as those that provide travel, home repair, or entertainment services — by depriving them access to prime real estate because these competing sites threaten Google’s revenue and dominant position.
The attorneys general argue that more competition in the general search engine market would benefit consumers, for example, though improved privacy protections and more targeted results and opportunities for consumers. Competitive general search engines also could offer better quality advertising and lower prices to advertisers.
The attorneys general expand on the U.S. DOJ’s allegation that Google’s anticompetitive conduct continues. As explained in the complaint, the company seeks to deploy the same exclusionary contracting tactics to monopolize the emerging ways consumers access general search engines, such as through their home smart speakers, televisions, or in their cars. In so doing, Google is depriving consumers of competitive choices and blocking innovation.
“Google is preventing competitors in the voice assistant market from reaching consumers through connected cars, which stand to be a significant way the internet is accessed in the near future,” Miller said.