The United States will argue before a federal judge in Washington on Tuesday that Google did not follow the rules in its efforts to dominate online search.
The US Justice Department is expected to reveal how Google paid billions of dollars per year to device makers like Apple Inc., wireless companies like AT&T, and browser makers like Mozilla to keep Google’s search engine atop the leaderboard.
The company’s justification for breaking the law is not the reason for its disproportionately large market share, according to Google, but rather the fact that its search engine is quick and efficient. It is also free.
Consumers, Google’s lawyers will argue, can delete the Google app from their devices or simply type Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo into a browser to use an alternative search engine. They will argue that customers continue to use Google because they trust it to answer their questions and are never disappointed.
The trial is divided into two phases, which begin with opening arguments on Tuesday and are expected to last up to ten weeks. In the first case, Judge Amit Mehta will decide whether Google violated antitrust law in how it manages search and search advertising.
If Google is found to have broken the law, Judge Mehta will decide how to best resolve the situation. He may simply order the company to cease and desist from illegal practises, or he may order Google to sell assets.
The government requested “structural relief as needed” in its complaint but did not define it.
The legal fight has huge implications for Big Tech, which has been accused of buying or strangling small competitors but has insulated itself against many accusations of breaking antitrust law because the services the companies provide to users are free, as in the case of Google, or inexpensive, as in the case of Amazon.com.
Previous major antitrust trials include Microsoft, filed in 1998, and AT&T, filed in 1974. The AT&T breakup in 1982 is credited with paving the way for the modern cell phone industry, while the fight with Microsoft is credited with opening space for Google and others on the internet.