Google Sued by State AGs Over ‘Monopoly’ in Search, Advertising

Google is again being sued for its dominance in online search and advertising.

A coalition of 38 state attorneys general is behind a new lawsuit accusing Google of holding illegal “monopoly” power in the online search market as well as in online advertising. New York Attorney General Letitia James, one of the leaders of the action, said Google has long used its size and related influence in various sectors of the digital economy “to illegally squash competitors, monitor nearly every aspect of our digital lives, and profit to the tune of billions.”

“For decades now, Google has served as the gatekeeper of the internet and has weaponized our data to kill off competitors and control our decision making — resulting in all of us paying more for the services we use every day,” she added.

Broadly, the lawsuit positions Google as a one time start-up that has become a “web-ecosystem behemoth” that not only has monopoly power, but uses “multiple forms of anticompetitive conduct in the general search and search advertising-related markets.”

These allegedly include its dominance in online search, as about 90 percent of all online searches in the U.S. happen through Google, with no other realistic competitor. Such dominance is maintained through “exclusionary agreements,” like the one Google has with Apple, in which Apple makes Google the default search engine on all of its tens of millions of devices. Google also allegedly discriminates against “specialized search sites, like Expedia and Yelp, as they threaten advertising revenue.”

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And when it comes to advertising revenue, Google maintains a firm grip there as well through allegedly illegal and anticompetitive means. The states claim that Google “rigs the game” by driving advertising spending to itself by surfacing advertising more often and making it look as though another search engine, like Bing, sees worse ad performance than it actually does. It has further fortified its monopoly power in advertising by collecting massive amounts of user data, due in large part to a lack of choice for consumers, and utilizing it.

“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,” the officials said. “Competitive general search engines also could offer better quality advertising and lower prices to advertisers, which would be expected to flow through to consumers.”

A Google representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

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