Judge chosen to hear the case
A hearing date has yet to be set for the charges against Google, but U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta was chosen to hear the case on Wednesday. Mehta, who was appointed to the court by Barack Obama, was chosen at random and has already heard an antitrust case. It is unusual to find a judge with experience in competition law, as cases rarely go to court. In the previous case, he had decided to block a merger between two large food distributors.
The Google lawsuit is the largest antitrust case in a generation, comparable to the lawsuit against Microsoft filed in 1998 and the 1974 case against AT&T, which led to the dissolution of the Bell system.
To win, the US Department of Justice must prove that Google has acquired or maintained monopoly power through abusive behavior, or something that exceeds fair or healthy competition. Google is expected to argue that the government overestimated the power of the company by defining its market too narrowly.
But some experts have said that Google’s ubiquity makes the case more likely to depend on whether its dominance stems from consumers preferring it over rivals, or whether the Mountain View, Calif., Based company has them. far from these rivals.
“We know that Google has a significant share of this market,” said John Lopatka, professor of law at Pennsylvania State University. “The question is why.”
The effects of a change of administration
Experts have said the federal government is unlikely to back down on the matter and could in fact apply more pressure if Joe Biden wins the presidency over Donald Trump in the November 3 election.
A Biden presidency could actually be beneficial for the case against Google, said Carl Tobias, professor of law at the University of Richmond, allowing the agencies to collaborate better.
“There may be too many players right now and too many ideas,” he said. “A new administration could come with a clean slate and move forward in a more orchestrated manner.”
It may be some time before any real effects are seen, said Dave Heger, analyst at financial services firm Edward Jones, which is why markets barely reacted to the announcement.
“The lawsuit will likely take years to be argued in court, and at this point the DoJ is not proposing any extreme corrective measures, such as demolishing the business,” he said. “With over $ 120 billion in cash, Alphabet is financially able to fight the allegations and pay the fines that could result from any government action.”
Other lawsuits are looming
The Justice Department was the first to file antitrust charges against Google, but the tech giant and its peers face potential lawsuits from multiple sources. In October, a major report detailing an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee concluded that tech companies wielded “too much power” and censored political discourse, spreading fake news and “killing” the engines of the U.S. economy.
Eleven U.S. states joined the lawsuit on Tuesday, and New York Attorney General Letitia James said her state and six others may soon file their own lawsuits. James said if they file a complaint they will try to consolidate it with the Justice Department charges.
“We would then plead the consolidated case cooperatively, just as we did in the Microsoft case,” she said.
The U.S. government’s antitrust case against Google looks strong, but could face an uphill battle from a business-friendly court system that might question whether a free search engine loved by consumers has actually made them worse, said several legal experts.
Alternatives to Google could flourish
Although Google has said it is ready to fight the lawsuit for years, the move is likely to motivate its search engine competitors to invest in improving their technology and challenge Google’s various restrictions to achieve greater distribution, according to experts in technology and law.
The lawsuit marks a huge opportunity for Microsoft to increase use of its Bing search engine, which it has spent years trying to protect with lawsuits alleging anti-competitive practices by Google.
“Markets work best when businesses know there is a sheriff in town,” said Chris Sagers, professor of law at Cleveland State University.
It could also mark a new era for lesser-known and smaller search engines, like Ecosia, a search engine that uses advertising revenue to plant trees in areas affected by deforestation and has 15 million users in the world. United States.
Ecosia CEO Christian Kroll said “legislative action is essential” to prevent people from being automatically directed to Google as the default search engine. Google has an 87% global search market share.
“Ethical options like Ecosia are not opposed to a normal competitor,” he said. “They face one of the most dominant players in today’s global economy, which in the absence of effective regulation has been able to abuse its position in several markets around the world.
Reuters contributed to the reporting