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Public Knowledge Urges Antitrust Enforcers to Scrutinize Google’s Search Conduct for Antitrust Violations

June 25, 2020 , , ,

Today, Public Knowledge sent letters urging the Department of Justice and state attorneys general to evaluate whether Google’s search market conduct is anticompetitive and violates antitrust law.

To assist with any investigation, Public Knowledge recommends the antitrust enforcers give full consideration to a new research paper by Professor Fiona Scott Morton of the Yale School of Management and David Dinielli of the Omidyar Network. The paper argues that Google engaged in anticompetitive behavior by setting up a series of exclusive contracts with cell phone manufacturers and online content companies to be their default search engine, which may violate the law. 

Additionally, the paper explains how Google appears to have violated the law by structuring its search engine results page to make it harder for specialized search alternatives — services like Yelp, Expedia, or Lending Tree — that could collectively take significant revenue chunks from a general search engine. If the enforcers find that facts support the concerns outlined in this paper, we believe such conduct in search would likely be anticompetitive and illegal in the U.S. The analysis provided in this paper should serve as a guide to what a comprehensive antitrust case against Google in the search market might look like.

The following is an excerpt from the letter:

“A lack of competition in search harms consumers and advertisers, as well as other search providers and potential entrants. It may also have important societal harms not considered by antitrust. Of particular interest to antitrust enforcers should be the harm to innovation. If faced with competition, Google would have had to build a better search engine. The search engine is such an important product that years of stagnation caused by a lack of competition have likely had harmful effects that are broad and difficult to quantify.”

You may view the DOJ letter as well as the research paper, “Roadmap for a Monopolization Case Against Google Regarding the Search Market,” for more information. You may also view the previous papers, “Roadmap for an Antitrust Case Against Facebook” and “Roadmap for a Digital Advertising Monopolization Case Against Google” to learn more about Big Tech’s potential antitrust violations.