The lawsuit accuses Google of manipulating search results–among other anticompetitive practices–to disadvantage its rivals and generate profits for its own products.
A coalition of 38 state attorneys general have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing the tech behemoth of stifling its competition.
According to The Verge, the lawsuit was announced earlier this week by Colorado’s Democratic Attorney General, Phil Weiser, and his conservative Nebraska counterpart, Doug Peterson. Together, the two alleged that Google has engaged in a variety of anticompetitive practices. Among the suit’s core claims is that Google returns search results in such a way as to privilege its own products above all others.
“Google sells advertisements to some specialized vertical providers, but, depending on the commercial segment involved, unnecessarily limits their utility,” the lawsuit states. “And by virtue of its monopoly power, Google extracts from some specialized vertical providers massive amounts of proprietary customer data that Google can use to compete against them.”
Google has, for instance, been accused of profiting from travel agencies and flight booking websites, while indirectly encouraging users to search for airfare with its own Google Flights services.
Likewise, searching for “hotels near me” may prompt consumers to a Google aggregator.
In a separate statement, New York A.G. Letitia James—a Democrat—said that Google has taken advantage of its powerful market position.
“Google sits at the crossroads of so many areas of our digital economy and has used its dominance to illegally squash competitors, monitor nearly every aspect of our digital lives, and profit to the tune of billions,” James said.
James further said that she and her colleagues want the courts to put a hold on Google’s activities and “restore a competitive marketplace.”
In order to restore some balance to the digital marketplace, James hopes to “counter any advantages that Google gained as a result of its anticompetitive conduct.” Similar to another large-scale lawsuit against Facebook, that means Google may be forced into divestitures.
Responding to the lawsuit, Adam Cohen—Google’s director of economic policy—suggested the attorneys general are trying to deprive Americans of access to a successful, high-quality product.
“We know that scrutiny of big companies is important and we’re prepared to answer questions and work through the issues,” Cohen said. “But this lawsuit seeks to redesign Search in ways that would deprive Americans of helpful information and hurt businesses’ ability to connect directly with customers. We look forward to making that case in court, while remaining focused on delivering a high-quality search experience for our users.”
Similarly, Google’ vice president of global affairs—Kent Walker—said most people choose to use Google because it’s the best search engine on the market.
“People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives,” Walker said. “This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers.”