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Google says the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit, though big on accusations, falls well short of proving the company is a harmful monopoly.
“Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed,” Kent Walker, Google’s chief legal officer, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday just after the lawsuit was filed in a Washington, D.C., federal court. “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
The lawsuit, a result of a yearlong federal investigation, accuses Google of crushing competition through exclusive agreements with mobile carriers and device makers including Apple that make Google their default search engine. As a result, Google dominates digital ads, accounting for nearly 70% of ads purchased on search, making it nearly impossible for others to compete, the lawsuit says.
While the government did not spell out how Google’s business should be curtailed, it did call for “structural relief,” which could mean anything from breaking up Google’s business to canceling some of its current deals.
Google voiced confidence that it will prevail against the lawsuit. Here are the company’s arguments in its defense.
Google has plenty of competition
Countering accusations that it controls search, Google said that Internet users rely on a number of apps, not just Google, to find information. For example, consumers may search Expedia for flights, use Twitter to scan for news, and browse Amazon for whatever they want to buy, a company spokesperson said.
The company pointed out a decade-old conclusion from the Federal Trade Commission saying that Google’s competitors aren’t necessarily limited to general search engines. And the number of players providing those services has only grown since then, Google said.
The lawsuit doesn’t show consumer harm
Key to any antitrust case is that the targeted company has used its dominance to harm consumers. But Google said that the DOJ failed to point to anything specific that would prove consumers are negatively impacted by Google.
Because Google Search is free, the government can’t claim that consumers must pay higher prices owing to Google’s deals. So instead, the DOJ suggested that consumers were worse off because of Google’s dominance, which hampered companies from creating even better services and kept smaller players out of the market.
Rather than harming consumers, Google said its services and deals benefit consumers by connecting them to high-quality search. It also said that the deals it has with companies like Apple do not exclude competitors from bidding for their own deals with the companies.
Google likened its agreements to be a default search engine with companies like Apple to Coca-Cola buying prime shelf space at grocery store checkout counters. Consumers can still find products elsewhere in supermarkets, and other companies can negotiate for that space as well, Google said.
Furthermore, Google insisted that the FTC has already evaluated Google’s search agreements. But now, Google said, the DOJ is unnecessarily calling that decision into question.
Consumers can easily download rivals
Nothing is stopping consumers from downloading rival search engines to connect them to information on their mobile devices and changing the default search, Google said.
The company pointed to several popular apps like Instagram, TikTok, Spotify, and Uber that have been successful without being preloaded onto phones and tablets. Consumers are smart enough to download the apps they want, regardless of what device makers provide as defaults, Google said.
Google also pointed to Yahoo’s agreement in 2014 to become the default search engine in Mozilla’s Firefox browser. Google said consumers who wanted to use Firefox with Google as their default search engine merely had to change their settings.
Ad competition is fierce
Google denied the government’s assertion that it dominates digital advertising. In fact, Google said it has stiff competition.
The company’s major rivals in digital ads, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, continue to grow their ad businesses—a sign Google isn’t shutting out competitors. Meanwhile marketers can also use smaller digital services like Pinterest, Autotrader, and TripAdvisor, Google said, though they’ll likely get much smaller returns on their spending than on Google.
In short, marketers can get clicks on their ads and traffic to their sites from more sources than just Google, the company argues.
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