Last week, it was reported that a Department of Justice lawsuit contends that Google has been paying Apple billions to be the default search engine for the iPhone, and for many in the tech sector, the news was a known quantity.
However, as the suit moves through its phases, we’re expected to discover even more information about how Google has kept its stronghold on search on both mobile and desktop and how previous attempts to wrangle the company’s sprawling presence have fared.
While Google is seemingly under constant antitrust investigation, back in 2017 the company took its first hits via a loss at the hands of the European Commission which fined search and advertising giant €2.4 billion (about US$2.7 billion). The June 2017 decision by the EU represented the largest single fine issued by the commission on record.
Google fought the ruling and held up a final decision through appeal, which was finally dismissed by the General Court of the EU in 2021. Google still has yet to pay the €2.4 billion (about US$2.7 billion), and will presumably appeal to the Court of Justice to continue to shield its payment.
France went after Google earlier in 2021 and fined the company €220 million ($270 million) to which Google is also in appeals over.
The EU has also begun talks of opening up another investigation into Google’s handling of the smartphone operating system Android in the market, and as we can see the company is developing quite the reputation in Europe, in the other hand, the US has only recently begun looking into its business but is quickly catching up on the number of investigations it’s already launched.
According to the Lanier Law firm, which is representing the state of Texas against Google, there are currently two other cases against Googe driven by a coalition of 30 states and the attorneys general of Nebraska and Colorado as well as a suit in Texas with another coalition of 10-group state effort.
The two previous antitrust suits come in addition to the recent DOJ suit but allege a very similar pattern of anticompetitive business practices such as “Google has changed the layout of its search results over the years to direct searchers to its own properties first (e.g., Google Hotels, Google Flights) and placed other vertical search companies lower on the results pages.”
The Lanier Law Firm has its own set of assertions that include:
Looking at the current antitrust cases against Google, there is specific evidence that points toward anti-competitive activity.
One such example is Google’s deal with phone makers like Apple, exchanging monetary compensation (up to $12 billion annually) for continued status as the default search engine for Apple’s smartphones.
Another instance of anti-competitive behavior is Google’s active efforts to crowd out organic search results with increasing ad placement frequency. This lessens the user experience on Google Search by placing advertisers ahead of companies ranking highly due to the quality of their content, products, or services.
All of these anti-competitive market practices combined have led to multiple lawsuits against the tech giant.
Admittedly, we are still in the early phases of it of these trails, and the DOJ suit against Google isn’t expected to begin until sometime next year, but if a decision is handed down that favors the DOJ in the case, it’ll be interesting to see how severe the fine is what disruption it will cause to the billion-dollar businesses built on Google’s back.