Atlanta-based ad-tech company Inform Inc. is suing Google for alleged "blatant and rampant coercive and anti-competitive activities" that violate the Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Atlanta on Monday, charges that Google used its monopolistic hold on the internet search and mobile operating systems to undermine competition in the advertising market.
It asserts that while Inform generated more than $100 million in revenue through its ad-tech solutions between 2014 and 2016, Google "effectively put Inform out of business as a direct result of...illegal conduct."
The specific allegations include that Google interfered with competitors' contracts and business relationships; illegally undermined competitors' products and services, and made agreements that restricted other companies from providing competing products and services; tied its products, services and apps to its Android operating system; and improperly infiltrated and influenced government agencies, reports The Inquirer, citing the suit, which was published by Law.com.
Further, the suit claims that Google coerced advertisers and consumers into using its products; "maliciously and artificially [imposed] restrictions on how ads can be supported ad and accepted for display, while exempting or white-listing its own platforms from these rules"; killed off Adobe Flash in order to force advertisers to use Google's advertising network; and had salespeople use information on Google's ad server to poach advertisers.
One example of that last allegation that's cited in the filing: "On or about April 4, 2016, the Google team contacted one of Inform's customers, sending them a screenshot to give them a ‘heads up' when Inform's floating video player, with that client's advertisement, appeared next to content that Google misleadingly characterized as objectionable"...
“The totality of Google’s illegal and anti-competitive conduct across multiple, inter-related markets demonstrates a frightening march to online and digital dominance,” the suit maintains. "Google's pattern of anti-competitive practices has thwarted competition and excluded Inform and other Google competitors from the relevant markets. The result has been to eviscerate competition in multiple markets, harm consumers, degrade consumer choice and consumer privacy, and stifle innovation."
In June, Inform agreed to be acquired, in an all-stock merger deal, by Boca Raton, Florida-based Bright Mountain Media, Inc.
Inform “provides data-driven tech solutions for the syndication and monetization of contextually relevant, personalized premium video content,” designed to open up “new video streams and impression opportunities” in premium publishing sites through demographically targeted reach to an aggregated digital audience, according to the acquisition announcement.
Bright Mountain, a digital media holding company “focused on providing a full advertising services platform,” owns an ad network and an ad exchange platform, and owns or manages 25 websites that provide content and services.
Inform founder and CEO Greg Peters joined Bright Mountain’s management team as part of the merger deal.
Google, which has declined to comment on the lawsuit, is already being investigated by the attorneys general of 48 states and the District of Columbia, and separately by the Department of Justice, for potential antitrust violations relating to its advertising business.