The U.S. Department of Justice and eight states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Tuesday, seeking the breakup of the company’s online ad business.
Antitrust lawsuits are a type of class-action lawsuit in which individuals, organizations, or agencies file for claims of anticompetitive business practices which led to unfair competition, price fixing, or other types of fraud. The goal is to keep the market free, open, and competitive. The importance of this is that this is the second major antitrust lawsuit filed against Google by the Justice Department in the last three years, and if successful, it could force Google to sell off much of its ad business. The suit states, “Competition in the ad tech space is broken, for reasons that were neither accidental nor inevitable,” the filing reads. “Google has corrupted legitimate competition in the ad tech industry by engaging in a systematic campaign to seize control of the wide swath of high-tech tools used by publishers, advertisers, and brokers, to facilitate digital advertising.”
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said monopolies “threaten the free and fair markets upon which our economy is based.” He added, “We will aggressively protect consumers, safeguard competition and work to ensure economic fairness and opportunity for all.” Whereas, Peter Schottenfels, a Google spokesman, said the lawsuit “attempts to pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector.”
The Department of Justice further claims that Google is illegally using its monopoly power and should be required to divest a host of entities that allow it to carry out the allegedly offending behavior. Prosecutors must prove that Google holds a harmful monopoly in a ‘clearly defined market.’ Google can argue that its services are free to its consumers, making It tough to prove how its market dominance harms them.
As for the next steps, Google now has a chance to respond to the DOJ’s initial complaint. Antitrust suits like this one can take years before they reach a resolution.