Will Google end up being sued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for violating antitrust laws? That's what is at stake for the company as the regulatory agency wraps up its probe of Google. Reuters cites three sources who told it that the Justice Department is waiting for final documents from the company before it closes its investigation and reaches a final decision. The documents are supposed to be received by the DOJ before the end of this month and contain complaints from companies about Google abusing its powerful advertising operations.
With the U.S. Attorney General taking a keen interest in the probe, Google might want to search for an antitrust attorney
Google is the subject of multiple investigations seeking to determine whether the company is a monopoly. State attorneys general have their own investigation going on and the House Judiciary Committee is looking into Google as part of a broader probe that also includes Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. Today, the states and the Justice Department plan on holding a virtual meeting to discuss their investigations.
Apps like Google Search, Gmail and Google Maps are free for consumers to use. The firm makes money from posting ads but the problem is that while Google is responsible for 30% of all online advertisements, it has 90% of the market for tools used to post ads. That includes Google Ad Manager which is used by publishers to sell display ads.
Besides possibly violating antitrust rules to help sell advertising on the internet, Google's ownership of the Android operating system has also led to some charges against the company. User review and recommendation app Yelp says that Google favors its own products in search results. In the EU, Google was accused of forcing Android phone manufactures to load Google Search and the Chrome browser on their phones if they wanted to license Google Mobile Services. Google was fined the equivalent of $5.04 billion by the EC and ordered to show Android users on the continent a couple of pages with third-party search engines and third-party browsers that they could choose from. The selected apps replaced Google Search and Chrome as the default search engine and browser on a user's Android phone.
One of Reuters' sources states that the state attorneys general are going to be asked to join the federal lawsuit and many are expected to accept the invitation. The source said that, "They’re not joined at the hip but there is a lot more coordination."The only way to hurt Google is to hit it where it hurts them the most-in the wallet. Google was already fined earlier this year over privacy practices by Arizona and New Mexico. The states sought as much as $10,000 and $5,000 respectively for each violation of their state statues.
A Google spokesman says that the company continues to cooperate with the current investigations which are being led by U.S. Attorney General William Barr on the federal level and Texas Attorney General Texas Ken Paxton who is leading the states' probe. The spokesman went on to add, "Our focus is firmly on creating free products that help Americans every day and lower costs for small businesses." The New York Times reported yesterday that AG Barr's interest in the case has kept it running at a fast pace and that he receives regular updates about the Google case from an aide.
Justice Department staff members are already drafting a case memo to determine how strong its case against Google is. But earlier this week a whistle-blower told the House Judiciary Committee that the DOJ had started antitrust cases against companies based on Mr. Barr's own personal feelings against an industry or because of President Trump's animosity toward a company. The president has already accused Google of manipulating search results against him.
In 2013, the FTC cleared Google Search of violating antitrust laws after a two-year investigation. Charles James, who ran the Justice Department’s antitrust division in the early 2000s, says that not bringing a case against Google would lead to more criticism against the DOJ than running with a weak case and losing. So in other words, Google better start putting together a strong team of attorneys. If the company can't find any, it can always turn to Google Search to look for legal assistance.