Eight states joined the U.S. to accuse the California-based company of abusing “monopoly power” to disadvantage advertisers who use other ad tech products, and the lawsuit seeks damages and the divestiture of certain ad tech products of the tech giant.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, says Google’s strategy includes neutralizing or eliminating competitors through acquisitions, along with wielding its power in digital advertising markets to make advertisers use its products.
“By deploying opaque rules that benefit itself and harm rivals, Google has wielded its power across the ad tech industry to dictate how digital advertising is sold, and the very terms on which its rivals can compete,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit is the latest confrontation between the Justice Department and Google. In 2020, under the Trump administration, the department accused the company of anticompetitive business practices on search and search advertising. The Google search litigation is scheduled for trial in September, the DOJ said.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said at a news conference Tuesday that Google engaged in anticompetitive behavior for 15 years, allowing it to force advertisers to use its tools and stop the ascent of rival technologies.
“No matter the industry and no matter the company, the Justice Department will vigorously enforce our antitrust laws,” Garland said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit.
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said that anticompetitive conduct threatens innovation, weakens workers’ rights and stifles free expression. The DOJ said this is the first monopolization case in approximately half a century in which it has sought damages for a civil antitrust violation.
“Today’s landmark action against Google underscores that it is a priority of this Justice Department to fight the abuse of market power,” Gupta said.
As a result of Google’s posture, website creators make less money while advertisers pay more than they would in an environment where competition could discipline prices, according to Tuesday’s lawsuit.
“This conduct hurts all of us because, as publishers make less money from advertisements, fewer publishers are able to offer internet content without subscriptions, paywalls, or alternative forms of monetization,” according to the lawsuit.
Internal Google documents show that the company would earn significantly less in a market that was competitive, according to the lawsuit.
“On average, Google keeps at least thirty cents — and sometimes far more — of each advertising dollar flowing from advertisers to website publishers through Google’s ad tech tools,” the lawsuit states.