The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday brought legal action against Google for its business methods. It said the company used its market power over internet search and advertising to limit competition and harm users.
The case marks the government's most notable antitrust legal action since its case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. The U.S. started the case against Google while continuing its investigations into other major technology companies. Those companies include Apple, Amazon and Facebook.
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen led the antitrust case against Google. The government called Goggle the "gatekeeper for the internet." It said Google kept its power using methods "that are harmful to competition."
Such methods include paying billions of dollars to companies like Apple, Samsung and T-Mobile to make Google the default search engine on mobile devices and internet browsers. And the company also entered agreements with companies to bar preinstalled software from competitors. Eleven states, all with Republican Party attorneys general, joined the federal government in the case.
Google called the government's case "deeply flawed." The company said in a blog post, "People use Google because they choose to, not because they're forced to, or because they can't find alternatives."
The company said that the case would "make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use." It defended the agreements as normal business methods that "are no different from the agreements that many other companies have traditionally used to distribute software."
Google has such a commanding lead in the market that its name has become a verb to describe searching for information on the internet.
Statcounter reported that Google's Chrome browser has more than 66 percent of the worldwide market. And its Android software runs 74 percent of mobile phones around the world. The company also owns the top video website, YouTube, and operates the Google Map system.
The market value of Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., is more than $1 trillion. The company reported more than $160 billion in earnings last year.
U.S. federal and state antitrust laws are designed to place limits on the economic power a business has over a market. The goal is to protect competition and Americans who use the company's goods and services. In 1974, the antitrust case against AT&T led to the breakup of the huge, American telephone company.
When asked what action should be taken against Google, a Justice Department official said, "Nothing is off the table." The officials added that a court should hear all the evidence before any decisions are made.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee released its 16-month long investigation into the "state of competition in the digital economy." The committee called for stronger antitrust measures against Google along with Apple, Amazon and Facebook for their business methods.
Google has faced similar antitrust legal action outside the United States. The European Union fined Google $1.7 billion in 2019 for stopping websites from using Google's competitors to find advertisers.
The company was fined $2.6 billion in 2017 for hurting competitors of its own shopping business with its search engine. Google also was fined $4.9 billion in 2018 for blocking competing services on its wireless Android operating system.
I'm Jonathan Evans.