What you should know about the Google antitrust case

By William Rinehart

Published:

Basics of the case

The real meat of the complaint begins on page 52 in paragraph 166, where the DOJ alleges, “Google has maintained unlawful monopolies in the general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising markets through its many exclusionary agreements.” In other words, the complaint primarily focuses on Google’s exclusionary market power, through which the DOJ claims Google has either deprived competitors of needed inputs and access to markets, or raised their competitors’ costs, negatively affecting competition in the long run.

Allegation of harm

In short, the DOJ is alleging that Google locked up a variety of players in the ecosystem to ensure that its product was the default for search, which made it difficult for consumers to exercise choice. As a result, this had the effect of stifling innovation.

Some oddities of the case and what’s next

What’s most striking about this complaint is its limited scope. The DOJ didn’t go after Google for their display ads, their presence in the ad tech industry, their Ad Mob/DoubleClick mergers, or self-preferencing in search, even though the recent report from the House Antitrust Subcommittee calls out each of these areas for closer scrutiny. If reports are true, this case might just be the first salvo. Countless states investigating the company declined to join the DOJ in the complaint, suggesting these states are holding out to bring their own, more expansive case against Google in the near future, probably in the coming weeks.

CGO scholars and fellows frequently comment on a variety of topics for the popular press. The views expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Growth and Opportunity or the views of Utah State University.