The US government has filed charges against Google, accusing the company of abusing its dominance to preserve a monopoly over internet searches and online advertising. The lawsuit marks the biggest challenge brought by US regulators against a major tech company in years.
The charges, filed in federal court, were brought by the US Department of Justice and 11 other states. The lawsuit focuses on the billions of dollars Google pays each year to ensure its search engine is installed as the default option on browsers and devices such as mobile phones.
Officials said those deals have helped secure Google’s placeas the “gatekeeper” to the internet, owning or controlling the channels for about 80% of search queries in the US.
It added: “Google is so dominant that ‘Google’ is not only a noun to identify the company and the Google search engine but also a verb that means to search the internet.”
Google has faced similar claims in the European Union. It is already appealing against €8.2bn ($9.5bn; £7.3bn) in fines demanded by the European Commission which include:
- in 2017, a €2.4bn fine over shopping results
- in 2018, a €4.3bn fine over claims it used Android software to unfairly promote its own apps
- in 2019, a €1.5bn fine for blocking adverts from rival search engines.
Google called the case “deeply flawed“. The company has maintained that its sector remains intensely competitive and that its practices put customers first.
“People use Google because they choose to – not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” it said.
Coming just a few weeks before the US presidential election, it has also been viewed as a move by the Trump administration to prove its willingness to challenge the influence of the sector if it gains a second term.