Google Antitrust Trial Begins

On Tuesday, September 12, 2023, a 10-week trial concerning Google’s search dominance began in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The U.S. Department of Justice originally filed its antitrust lawsuit against Google in October 2020. The lawsuit alleges that Google has maintained its roughly 90% share of the general search market unlawfully, via deals with Apple, Mozilla, and Android phone manufacturers, to ensure that Google is the default search engine on the vast majority of browsers and devices. Judge Amit P. Mehta previously dismissed a handful of additional charges brought against Google, slightly narrowing the case. One such charge alleges that the design of Google’s search results page harmed smaller, specialized competitors, like Expedia and Yelp. The Department of Justice will seek to prove that Google has abused its power to stifle competition in ways that discourage innovation. Further, the government alleges that Google delayed Microsoft’s access to features on SA360, Google’s search engine marketing tool, in an effort to manipulate the search market to its own benefit.

Google has rebutted the Department of Justice’s allegations, arguing that consumers can easily switch between search engines at any time. The search giant claims that its popularity is due to its quality, rather than any of the default search agreements in place with software and hardware companies. Google has long argued that its default search agreements are akin to a brand paying a grocery store for prime shelf space, essentially improving customer access to its product.

During opening statements, Judge Mehta asked government attorney Kenneth Dintzer when Google became a monopoly. Dintzer replied that Google has been illegally maintaining its monopoly since 2010. Dintzer further posited that half of Google searches are a result of Google’s default search agreements. Judge Mehta asked Google’s attorneys to clarify whether users actually switch their default search engines, to which Google replied that it does not have good data on whether people actually switch.

Additional Reading

Google goes to trial in biggest US challenge to tech power in decades, The Guardian (September 11, 2023)

US v. Google: all the news from the search antitrust showdown, The Verge (September 12, 2023)

What Google’s trial means for the company — and your web browsing, Vox (September 11, 2023)

United States of America et al v. Google LLC (Case No. 1:2020cv03010)

Complaint in United States of America et al v. Google LLC

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