The antitrust noose is tightening on all tech giants

Posted on January 25, 2023, 6:22 pmUpdated January 25, 2023, 6:45 pm

Google lawyers will be out of a job. In just three years, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has launched not one, but two antitrust proceedings against the Mountain View giant. In 2020, the ministry with 115,000 agents had already accused Google of monopolizing the “search” market. In a new complaint filed Tuesday, the first since the election of Joe Biden, this time he criticizes Google for doing the same in the adtech market. Or all the technologies used to sell and buy advertising online.

Words are hard. For the past fifteen years, Google has allegedly acted in an “anti-competitive” manner […] and illegal” to “eliminate or greatly reduce any threat to its dominance” in this market, especially by buying out its competitors. By doing so, Google would have caused “great harm” to publishers, advertisers and consumers of the American press. And it violated the Sherman Act of 1890, the first antitrust law passed by the United States and enforced by the DoJ.

Fifteen antitrust proceedings against Gafa

This dual lawsuit against Google illustrates just how much antitrust scrutiny has tightened on the tech giants. After a laissez-faire period following their appearance in the 2000s, the time has come to turn the screw. In total, no fewer than fifteen investigations or complaints of anticompetitive behavior have been launched or are pending in the United States against Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon, both at the federal and state levels, according to calculations by the Bloomberg agency.

In 2020, several states led by Texas attacked Google for a secret deal with Facebook on online advertising. Rebelote in 2021 with another procedure, this time in Google practices in the Play Store. On the personal data front, last year the DOJ also accused Meta of using sensitive information, such as gender or ethnicity, to target apartment rental ads. The case was settled in early 2023 with an amicable settlement when the group agreed to change its algorithms.

According to Politico, the US DOJ may file a complaint against Apple by the end of the year, the second since 2019. Amazon, for its part, has come under fire from several states, notably Washington district attorney in 2021 then from California last year.

8 billion euros fine against Google

Added to this is the action of the FTC, the competition police in the United States. The powerful agency specifically wants to disrupt the $69 billion mega-takeover by Activision Blizzard by Microsoft. According to her, such a merger would allow the Xbox maker to keep Activision’s valuable games for itself, to the detriment of the competition. The FTC is also seeking to block Meta’s acquisition of virtual reality startup Brenda. An operation which, according to her, would “harm competition and reduce innovation” in the United States in the fitness app market.

The noose is also tightening in Europe. Since 2017, the European Commission has fined Google almost €8 billion for anti-competitive behavior in three separate cases (Google Shopping, Android and online advertising). Fines for hindering competition through the improvement of the Google search engine on the Android mobile operating system apparently reached 4.3 billion euros (later reduced to 4.1 billion), a record. The legislative framework has also changed, with the adoption of the DSA and DMA, the two regulations that are supposed to better regulate digital technology in the Old Continent.

Brussels’ objective: to attack Gafa’s anti-competitive practices at the root, rather than intervene when the damage is done. Because antitrust proceedings are long and costly. Three years later, the first DD complaint against Google is still pending! The trial as such should take place… in September 2023.

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