2020 is shaping up to be a difficult year for Google legally. They have potentially lost its Supreme Court case against Oracle. Now, they will be heading back into court to defend themselves against the entirety of the United States legal system, care of an antitrust suit filed by the Justice Department. The suit has been imminent for months, but a formal filing marks a major change in the relationship between the government and the tech giant. This filing represents the largest US antitrust case since Microsoft in the 1990s that paved the way for Google's rise to power.
While Microsoft's case involved using the company's position in operating systems, Google's case involves its position in search. The suit claims that Google has continually used its search position to unfairly promote and prop up its other businesses. In a media call, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said,
Google is the gateway to the Internet. It has maintained its power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.
The DOJ also points to its use of its other brands to increase and maintain its search position, including pre-loading Google Search onto its Chrome browser as well as Android devices. The Android issue has continued to pop up across the globe ever since Google changed its licensing rules, forcing manufacturers to maintain certain Google products on their devices if they want access to the Play Store. In 2018, the European Union fined Google $5 billion in an antitrust case over similar issues.
Google has publicly responded to the charges, saying that the case could not possibly help consumers. The statement said,
Today's lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to, not because they're forced to, or because they can't find alternatives.
This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.
Google makes the comparison between Android and Windows, pointing out that Windows comes preloaded with Edge, which uses Bing as its default. The search bar in Windows 10 also uses Bing as its search engine of choice. However, there is no rule in Windows that says that Edge must be the default in order to use core features of the ecosystem. If HP want to include Chrome on its computers, it is welcome to do so, giving consumers a choice.
Clearly, this is just the beginning of the process, with charges just being filed. The Microsoft suit took from May 18, 1998 when the suit was filed, through April 3, 2000 when the judgement was announced. The Microsoft case was fascinating to watch, as the government continually proved its lack of understanding of the topic. It's been over 2 decades since that case, but something tells me this will be no less confusing.