This post was written by Robert Lande, Venable Professor of Law at UB School of Law.
On Oct. 20, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Google for illegally maintaining a monopoly on internet searching and internet search advertising. DOJ has charged Google with engaging in a large number of illegal exclusionary practices, including “entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid pre-installation of any competing search engines” and “entering into long-term agreements … that require Google to be the default — and de facto exclusive — general search engine ….” on many devices.
In other words, Google is alleged to have forced smartphone and computer makers not to install any other search engine on their devices, even if they thought that some customers would want and prefer them. If these facts and allegations are correct, this case could lead to a remedy that will change internet searching and Internet search advertising dramatically.
This is potentially the most important antitrust case filed since DOJ’s 1998 suit against Microsoft. The Google case’s claims will take years, and possibly more than a decade, to resolve. The Microsoft case was so large and important it often was referred to as “World War 3.0.” The case against Google should be called “World War 4.0.”
If the facts and other allegations in this complaint are proven, Google will indeed be found to have committed extremely serious violations of the U.S. antitrust laws. However, DOJ under President Trump has been the most political within memory, and Trump has expressed his anger at Google on several occasions.
It also could be significant that every one of the state antitrust enforcers who joined the complaint are Republicans. All this raises the possibility that the case was filed two weeks before the election mostly for political reasons. On the other hand, even a broken clock can be right twice a day.