WSJ and Bloomberg highlight weaknesses in DOJ case against Google

October 20, 2020

Wall Street Journal Google in the Antitrust Dock: Justice Will Need More Proof of Consumer Harm to Win its Lawsuit

Bloomberg Government Google Lawsuit Is A Case Of Antitrust Policy Run Amok: Editorial

The Editorial Boards of two of the largest publications in the country released articles highlighting their concerns with the Justice Department’s recently filed litigation against Google. The litigation is seen as the first in a series of lawsuits against big tech companies.

The lawsuit against Google is an antitrust suit and its culpability hinges on whether the company employs anticompetitive practices that harm consumers. Specifically, the lawsuit claims Google uses exclusionary practices similar to those the Government used to prove violations by Microsoft in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in U.S. v. Microsoft (2001), which held that Microsoft’s practice of bundling their web server and browser was monopolistic. And, that the agreements Google made with phone makers and wireless carriers to promote its search business were problematic.

Bloomberg said in its article that, “All the relevant agreements were the result of competitive bidding, users face only the slightest of hurdles if they wish to switch to other services, and even the world’s most ardent Bing enthusiasts must admit that Google has made a great product with immense consumer benefits.

While the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board cited facts showing that consumers can easily switch between search engines as a major difference that could lead the courts to a different decision in this case: “But consumers can easily download other browsers and search engines if they don’t like Google’s, unlike in the 1990s when they had to buy special software or jump through hoops to use an alternative to Microsoft’s. Now most general search engines and web browsers are free. Microsoft’s Bing even pays consumers rewards for using it. Where is the consumer harm?

The WSJ Editorial Board also laid out the complaint’s other weaknesses.

  • In 2005 Google accounted for about 35% of the general search market compared to 30% for Yahoo and 15% for Microsoft. Both of the latter had plenty of data and capital to invest in building better search products. Microsoft pre-loads every Windows PC with its Edge browser and Bing search. Amazon’s Fire operating system uses Bing as its default. Google doesn’t stop users from switching to other search engines.
  • “[C]onsumers consent to letting all sorts of companies, including supermarkets, collect data in return for a free service. Google also allows users to limit the data it collects. Most don’t.
  • “Google uses its general search function to hook people, but it makes money from selling ads on specialized queries. This broader advertising market includes Amazon, eBay, as well as websites like Yelp, OpenTable and Expedia. About 60% of Americans start product searches on Amazon.

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