Google Must Face Antitrust Claims Over Search Agreements

Largely siding against Google, a federal judge rejected the company's bid to throw out some antitrust claims by federal and state authorities who alleged that the company monopolizes the market for search engines.

In a ruling unveiled late Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C. said claims stemming from Google's search agreements with Apple and Mozilla involve “genuine disputes of material fact that warrant a trial.”

The lawsuits, filed in late 2020, include claims that Google obtained dominance in search by arranging to be the default search engine in Mozilla's Firefox browser and Apple's Safari browser, and by arranging to have its search engine pre-installed on Android smartphones.

Earlier this year, Google argued in a motion for summary judgment that its agreements with Mozilla and Apple are not anti-competitive for several reasons, including that the deals don't prevent consumers from using other search engines.

The Justice Department and states countered that default settings have an “enormous impact” in driving traffic to search engines.

“Being the default search engine on a preinstalled and prominently placed app is by far the most efficient and effective way for a general search engine to reach users,” attorneys for the government argued.

Mehta said in a 60-page ruling that there was a factual dispute regarding whether Google's agreements with Mozilla and Apple were “at least, de facto exclusive.”

“Google is, of course, correct that its browser agreements do not prevent users from switching the default search engine, and do not prohibit browser developers from promoting and entering into revenue-share agreements with other search engines,” he wrote.

“In fact, developers have entered into such agreements ... But that is not dispositive,” he added

Mehta also said claims regarding the pre-installation of Google's search engine on Android phones warranted a trial.

The judge threw out some other claims, including that Google designed its search results pages in a way that weakened companies devoted to particular industries -- such as Expedia for travel, or OpenTable for restaurant reservations.

Kent Walker, Google's president of legal affairs and chief legal officer, stated Friday that the company appreciates Mehta's "careful consideration and decision to dismiss claims regarding the design of Google Search."

He added that the company looks forward "to showing at trial that promoting and distributing our services is both legal and pro-competitive."

The trial is scheduled to begin on September 12.

Next story loading loading..