News of Google's $5.1 billion antitrust fine in Europe has spurred Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley to expand his investigation into whether the company violated state antitrust and consumer protection laws.
“If the European Commission’s allegations are true, Google’s conduct may have violated both federal and state antitrust laws,” Hawley said Wednesday in a statement. “Google’s alleged conduct does not merely undermine free and efficient markets; it undermines fundamental consumer privacy interests by excluding companies that would compete with Google by providing greater protections for users’ personal information.”
Hawley, who is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate, said he has served Google with a subpoena relating to allegations that the company "took improper steps to enhance its market power."
Last week, EU regulators said Google violated European antitrust law by requiring Android manufacturers to configure smartphones and tablets in ways that favor the Google services. The company required manufacturers to install the Chrome browser and set Google as the default search engine on Android devices, according to the EU authorities.
Consumers who use Android devices can install other browsers, and can select other search engines. But the EU found that Google's bundling requirements helped solidify its dominance.
Google has said it plans to appeal the decision.
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons said at a House hearing last week that he was interested in the EU's action, but also noted that Europe's approach to antitrust differed from the approach in the U.S. He added that In Europe, authorities can take action after they find a company is "dominant," but in the U.S., there also must be a harm to consumer welfare.
The FTC previously investigated whether Google violated antitrust law by promoting its own services in the search results, but closed the probe in 2013 without bringing charges. Former Chairman Jon Leibowitz said at the time the agency found that Google's primary reason for touting its own offerings in the search results was "to improve the user experience."