Alphabet Inc’s Google pays more than $10 billion a year to maintain its position as the default search engine on web browsers and mobile devices, stifling competition, the US Justice Department said at the start of a high-stakes antitrust trial in Washington.
“This case is about the future of the internet and whether Google’s search engine will ever face meaningful competition,” Kenneth Dintzer, a government lawyer, said in his opening statement. “The evidence will show they demanded default exclusivity to block rivals.”
Dintzer said Google became a monopoly by at least 2010 and today controls more than 89% of the online search market. “The company pays billions for defaults because they are uniquely powerful,” he said. “For the last 12 years, Google has abused its monopoly in general search.”
The monopolisation trial is the first pitting the federal government against a US technology company in more than two decades. The Justice Department and 52 attorneys general from states and US territories allege Google illegally maintained its monopoly by paying billions to tech rivals, smartphone makers and wireless providers in exchange for being set as the preselected option or default on mobile phones and web browsers.
Attorneys for Google, which has denied the government’s claims, will present their opening statements.
Dintzer said Google had “weaponised” the use of default agreements to discourage rivals and exercised its market power by blocking Apple from pursuing options that were better than Google as the default browser on its computers, phones and other devices. Apple first licensed Google for use in its Safari search engine in 2002, and there was no money and no exclusivity required, Dintzer said.
Three years later, Google approached Apple to propose the revenue share agreement, he Said. In 2007, Apple wanted to offer a choice screen that would have allowed users to pick between Google and Yahoo, according to Dintzer. But Google responded via email, “No default placement, no revenue share,” he said. “This is a monopolist flexing,” Dintzer said, adding that Apple had no choice but to cave to Google.
By 2020, Google was paying between $4 billion and $7 billion to Apple for the default on Safari, Dintzer said
Source: The Economic Times