The Department of Justice accused Google of illegally monopolizing Internet searches in an antitrust lawsuit filed in October, alleging that its conduct was harming consumers and competitors.
The lawsuit alleged that Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, crafted deals with Internet companies like Apple to make itself the default option for users and to dominate the market share in up to 88 percent of searches. In response to these allegations, Google has contended that its actions were legal. Rather, Google argues that people use its platform because they prefer to.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Google’s partnership with Apple is at the center of the suit, and could detrimentally impact both tech companies. Although the terms of the deal between Apple and Google have never been made public, the Justice Department estimates that Google’s payments make between 15% and 20% of Apple’s annual profits. According to the lawsuit, Google pays Apple approximately $8 billion to $12 billion a year to remain the default search option on its products. In 2019, Apple devices made up almost 50 percent of its search traffic. Although it is uncertain right now how the suit will affect Apple, the company’s centrality in the case highlights a potentially sizable threat to one of Apple’s major revenue streams.
The government’s lawsuit has been over a year in the making, in the midst of the Justice Department’s broader investigation into technology companies that assume huge roles in the U.S. economy and society. Questions regarding what measures and steps should be taken to control the power of tech giants have been at the center of many policy and political concerns, especially regarding the influence tech companies have over consumers and the detrimental impact their business practices hold on new competitors. This also comes in the midst of President Trump’s promise to hold Big Tech accountable, in light of allegations against anticonservative bias on social media.
In Europe, Google has already faced various antitrust violations fines, including a $5 billion fine for unfairly favoring its own services in internet searches. In the United States, however, the case comes years after the last government antitrust suit against tech giant Microsoft in the late 1990s. The suit against Microsoft lasted over a decade and ultimately ended in Microsoft’s loss.
It seems to be the right time for the U.S. to bring this suit, although some have argued that it is overdue and even a little too late. Regardless, if prior suits have indicated anything, it is that regulated cases like these are often long, drawn out, and unpredictable. Although it may take years to pan out, it is likely that the lawsuit will have a notable and significant impact on the future of Google and big tech companies as a whole, marking the beginning to a long trial ahead.