Friday, May 14, 2021

Google Antitrust Cases: A Guide for the Confused

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Do good things come in threes? Not if you are Google. As the holidays approach, the company finds itself faced with a trio of antitrust cases brought by a network of State and federal executors. It’s a lot to follow. Let’s try to sort out some of the bigger questions.

Why are there all these separate cases against Google, instead of just one?

The simplest answer is that Google has a dominant position in several markets. This opens it up to different lines of attack which do not all fit into the same trial. Two of the cases relate to Google’s monopoly in search and search advertising; the third focuses on his control over what you might call no research The advertisement.

OK, so what are the cases?

The U.S. Department of Justice filed the first case in October, initially joined by eleven Republican attorneys general. It is the narrowest of the three pursuits. He claims Google has used anti-competitive tactics to protect its monopoly on general search and prevent competing search engines from gaining a foothold. Specifically, the complaint describes efforts by Google to ensure that it is the default search engine on browsers and smartphones, such as paying Apple up to $ 12 billion each year to make Google the default engine for Safari and iPhone. With its control over the secure search market, according to the lawsuit, Google can reap more ad revenue from search, which in turn allows it to keep payments in circulation. The DOJ argues that this amounts to an illegal ploy to maintain Google’s monopoly on search.

What does Google say about this?

In response to the DOJ’s complaint, Google says there is nothing wrong with the arrangements it has made, as it’s easy for users to change the default if they want to. As the company’s senior counsel put it in a blog post, “People don’t use Google because they have to, they use it because they want to.”

But why would Google spend billions of dollars every year to be the default if everyone freely chooses to use it anyway?

Excellent question!

OK, you said there were two cases involving Google search. What is the other?

the second case about Google search, and the third to be filed overall, is from a coalition of more than 30 states, led by the attorneys general of Colorado and Nebraska. It essentially makes the same argument as the DOJ trial, plus a few other charges. (In fact, the states have asked that their action be combined with that of the DOJ.) The most important new piece is the claim that Google used its monopoly on general research (an activity commonly known as googling) to discriminate against companies in what is called the vertical search for businesses, like Yelp or Kayak. The idea is that Google wants people to start all their searches on Google, rather than going directly to a vertical search site or app. States claim that Google has therefore made changes over the years to the way search results appear in order to keep more traffic to Google’s own properties rather than vertical search. This puts these vertical businesses in a tough spot because if users can’t find them easily through Google, they might not find them at all. It’s illegal, states say, because the goal and effect is to boost Google’s share of the search market, rather than directing users to the best results.

What does Google say about this?

Google public response So far, it’s simple: the changes made are simply aimed at making Google search more useful and relevant to users. If this is true, there is nothing wrong with what the company has done. The case may ultimately revolve around whether antitrust authorities can prove that Google had other goals in mind than customer satisfaction.

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