This is becoming a landmark case, with Google at risk of bankruptcy if it is found breaking antitrust laws in the United States.
The U.S. Justice Department and a coalition of state attorneys general will launch a blockbuster antitrust trial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, alleging that Alphabet’s Google unlawfully abused its dominance in the search-engine market to maintain monopoly power.
So, how did it happen and what’s at stake?
Here is a summary of the key issues in the landmark case against the technology giant.
What is the legal principle of the US government?
The US and its state allies argue that Google unlawfully stifled competition by paying billions of dollars to Apple and other business partners to ensure that its search engine would be the default on most phones and web browsers.
The government’s lawsuit, filed in 2020 in federal court, alleges that these deals were intended to be “excludable” by Google, deprive rivals of access to search queries and clicks, and allow Google to strengthen its market dominance. Was allowing.
According to government estimates, Google has gained 90 percent market share in searches in the US in recent years.
The government said browser compromises – sending billions of web queries to Google every day – have resulted in less choice for consumers and less innovation.
What does Google say in its defense?
Google sees things very differently. The company, which says it has not violated antitrust laws, said in a January court filing that its browser agreements were “legitimate competition” and not “illegal exclusion.”
Google argues that the agreements do not prevent rivals from developing their own search engines or prevent companies such as Apple and Mozilla from promoting them.
Rather, makers of phones and web browsers set Google Search as their default because they wanted to provide the “highest quality” experience for their customers, Google claimed in its January filing.
Google also claims that mobile users can easily switch if they want to use another search engine.
What does American law say?
It is generally not illegal for a business to make an arrangement with one customer that excludes others.
Such exclusive deals are actually common, and they do not attract much regulatory scrutiny when a company that lacks market power cannot meaningfully influence competition.
But exclusive deals may violate antitrust law if a company is so large or powerful that it prevents rivals from entering the market, and cannot prove that its curbs on industry competition outweigh the positive effects on consumers. Are.
The burden is on the US Justice Department to show that Google’s business deals harmed competition for search.
After the government presents its case, Google will have its chance to argue in a non-jury trial that its deals benefit consumers.
What happens if Google loses?
The US and the state allies are not seeking monetary penalties, but rather seeking to prevent Google from continuing alleged anti-competitive practices.
Such an order could have significant business implications for Google.
For example, the US government said in its lawsuit that the court could break up the company as a fix.
More broadly, the Justice Department could argue that it wants to prevent Google from leveraging its alleged search monopoly to make exclusive deals in new emerging markets, including artificial intelligence (AI).
The case is widely seen as one of the largest challenges to the power of the tech industry since the DOJ sued Microsoft in 1998 over its market dominance of personal computers.
The trial court in that case found that Microsoft had tried to unlawfully block the rival browser Netscape Navigator. Microsoft later reached a settlement that kept the company intact.
The Google trial in the US District Court for the District of Columbia is expected to last about 10 weeks.
The judge will not be expected to rule until sometime in 2024.
Who is presiding over the case?
US District Judge Amit Mehta was appointed to the bench by then-President Barack Obama in 2014 after a career as a private lawyer in Washington DC.
He has overseen several major antitrust disputes. In 2015, Mehta blocked Sysco Corp’s $3.5 billion (€3.2 billion) merger with US Foods.
Mehta recently presided over the trial of former Donald Trump adviser Peter Navarro, who was convicted of contempt of Congress on September 7.
In May, Mehta sentenced Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in prison for his role in the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.