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Nearly 40 states file antitrust lawsuit against Google

The lawsuit filed Thursday is the third antitrust case to be leveled against Google since October. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
The lawsuit filed Thursday is the third antitrust case to be leveled against Google since October. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Thirty-seven states and the Distric of Columbia filed a bipartisan antitrust lawsuit Thursday against Google, the third such case since October to accuse the search engine giant of restraining choice and innovation to maintain its market share.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia accuses Google of maintaining its monopoly of search engine and Internet advertising markets through anti-competitive conduct that deprives consumers of choice and innovation.

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The case came a day after 10 states led by Texas filed a similar case against Google and nearly two months after the Justice Department with 11 states sued the tech company in October for violating the Sherman Act, which bars monopolistic business practices.

The office of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement the complaint filed Thursday is similar to the Justice Department's suit but goes a step further charging it with conducting a "multi-pronged effort to maintain its monopolies."

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"Google's anti-competitive actions have protected its general search monopolies and excluded rivals, depriving consumers of the benefits of competitive choices, forestalling innovation and undermining new entry or expansion," Weiser said. "This lawsuit seeks to restore competition."

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The lawsuit describes Google of having "virtually untrammeled power over Internet search traffic," stating close to 90% of all searches in the United States are done through its engine with no competing engine attracting more than 7%.

Its monopolies and business, the lawsuits contends, are the result of the vast amounts of data it collects from those who use its search engine, which it converts into "extremely lucrative markets for general search-based advertising."

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Like the Justice Department lawsuit, the states accuse Google of depriving consumers of choice by entering into exclusionary contracts that shutoff competitors from distribution channels to extend its search-related monopolies even into new avenues such as home smart speakers, cars and televisions.

"Google is preventing competitors in the voice assistant market from reaching consumers through connected cars, which stand to be a significant way the Internet is accessed in the near future," Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in a statement.

The states' lawsuit also accuses Google of using its money to limit the number of consumers who use its competitors, favoring its owner advertising over its competitors through its search-advertising management tool and discriminating against competing search sites that specialize in travel, home repair or entertainment services that threaten its bottomline.

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"Combined with the other recent lawsuits filed against Google, never before have so many states and the federal government come together to challenge a company with such power," Miller said. "Google has more data on consumers and more variety of information than perhaps any entity in history."

The Justice Department said the states have asked the court to consolidate their case with the federal government's.

Google's director of economic policy, Adam Cohen, responded to the lawsuit Thursday in a blog post, saying it "suggests we shouldn't have worked to make search better and that we should, in fact, be less useful to you."

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"When you search for local products and services, we show information that helps you connect with businesses directly and helps them reach more customers," Cohen wrote. "This lawsuit demands changes to the design of Google Search, requiring us to prominently feature online middlemen in place of direct connections to businesses."

Cohen said the redesign the lawsuit calls for would harm the quality of search results and would be at the expense of businesses.

"They would have a harder time reaching new customers and competing against big commerce and travel platforms and other aggregators and middlemen," he said.

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The lawsuit against Google came as the Justice Department announced three more states -- California, Michigan and Wisconsin -- filed for permission to join its antitrust suit.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said their request and the lawsuit filed by 38 states and districts "underscores the broad and bipartisan consensus that Google's practices in search and search advertising need antitrust redress."

"These antitrust actions aim to open the door to the next wave of innovation in digital markets," Rosen said.

The states have asked the court to halt Google's alleged illegal conduct in order to create a competitive marketplace and to remove advantages that Google may have gained as a result.

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