US Judge allows key part of Google antitrust lawsuit to proceed to trial

US District Judge Amit Mehta ruled in favor of proceeding with a central part of the antitrust lawsuit against Google, filed by the US Department of Justice and US states.

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US District Judge at Washington federal court, Amit Mehta, ruled that a central part of the 2020 complaint filed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and US states accusing Google of suppressing competition in the advertising market will be heard at trial, which will begin on 12 September 2023.

The lawsuit alleges, among others, that Google harmed the competition by limiting Expedia, eBay, or OpenTable in Google searches and asking them for their data to be made available to Google. Judge Mehta dismissed the claims based on inadequate proof of anticompetitive effect in the relevant market. Additionally, Judge Mehta rejected the claims over an alleged unlawful agreement related to Google Assistant and compatibility with Android while setting a threshold of unlawful monopoly power based on the company’s stifled competition.

At the same time, Judge Mehta rejected Google’s request to dismiss the case entirely and stated that the DOJ’s claims over Google’s alleged monopolization in the market should go ahead. Lastly, Judge Mehta emphasized that for antitrust law to be violated, the government would have to prove that each specific action, like Google’s approach to search advertising, is independently unlawful and cannot rely on demonstrating a series of activities that collectively breach antitrust regulations.

Why does it matter? Google has been accused by both the USA and the EU of allegedly abusing its dominant positions in the advertisement market. Despite the ongoing legal battles between Google and the DOJ, the European Commission found in its preliminary view, on 14 July 2023, that Google has breached the EU antitrust laws and abused its dominant positions since at least 2014. The European Commission also expressed concerns over Google’s alleged intentional favoring of its AdX service, which may have foreclosed rival ad exchanges.