Google Goes To Court In The US Over Search Dominance, Denies Any Wrongdoing

Seattle, USA - Jul 24, 2022: The South Lake Union Google Headquarter entrance at sunset.

One of the biggest antitrust cases in tech history has kicked off in the US this week, with Google being challenged over its dominance of and anticompetitive behaviour in the search market.

Kenneth Dintzer, the US Justice Department’s lead lawyer on the case said that the legal battle, which started more than three years ago, was “about the future of the internet and whether Google’s search engine will ever face meaningful competition.”

In the trial, the US government will attempt to prove that Google abused its power and status in the market by forcing platforms and devices to include its search engine as the default service.

Government lawyers have also said that Google has given billions of dollars to the likes of Apple, Samsung and Mozilla to ensure that its search product has been the default option across all the services and products.

“Google pays more than $US10 billion ($15.6 billion) per year for these privileged positions,” Dintzer added.

“Google’s contracts ensure that rivals cannot match the search quality ad monetisation, especially on phones,” he said. “Through this feedback loop, this wheel has been turning for more than 12 years. It always turns to Google’s advantage.”

The government has even alleged that Google’s largesse and heavy-handed approach to its competitors prevented Apple from expanding its own search products and Samsung from working with a Google rival.

“This is a monopolist, flexing,” Dintzer said.

“Are there other distribution channels? Other ways of distributing search? Yes… Are these as powerful as defaults? No,” told Judge Amith Mehta.

“The best testimony for that, for the importance of defaults, your Honour, is Google’s chequebook.”

However, Google has said that Search simply isn’t that important any longer thanks to the rise of other channels.

“There are lots of ways users access the web, other than through default search engines, and people use them all the time,” said the company’s lawyer, John Schmidtlein.

“The evidence in this case will show Google competed on the merits to win pre-installation and default status, and that its browser and Android partners judged Google to be the best search engine for its users.”

Pointing to Microsoft Windows, the most-used desktop operating system in the world, Schmidtlein said that most users chose Google as the default search engine despite Microsft’s own Bing search engine being the default option.

In fact, in a blog post published ahead of the trial, Kent Walker, Google’s president of global affairs, said that Bing and Yahoo! also paid Apple to be featured in its Safari browser across iOS and macOS.

He also said it took “two clicks” to change the default search engine on Safari desktop, “four taps” to change it on Safari mobile and just “two taps” to remove the Google search widget on Android.

“Our promotion and distribution of Google Search hasn’t harmed competition or reduced consumer choice,” said Walker.

“To the contrary, there are more ways than ever to find information today. Just think about how you use the internet — you may look for recommendations on TikTok, Reddit or Instagram, find music and podcasts on Spotify, ask ChatGPT a question, or shop on Amazon. It’s reported that over 60 per cent of Americans start product searches on Amazon.”

The case will likely run for around 10 weeks and the firm is also facing a federal lawsuit in the US over its advertising business. The US government has asked for “structural relief” if it wins, which could mean that Google is broken up as a business into its component parts. That would be transformative for the internet and its relationship with advertising.

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