On Tuesday, the Justice Department, along with the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia, filed a civil antitrust suit against Google for monopolizing multiple digital advertising technology products in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.
The complaint alleges that Google monopolizes key digital advertising technologies that website publishers depend on to sell ads and that advertisers rely on to buy ads and reach potential customers.
It is the second antitrust suit federal authorities have brought against the company’s advertising empire, which has for years been under scrutiny over allegations of self-dealing and choking off competitors.
“Today’s complaint alleges that Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful conduct to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “No matter the industry and no matter the company, the Justice Department will vigorously enforce our antitrust laws to protect consumers, safeguard competition, and ensure economic fairness and opportunity for all.”
“The complaint filed today alleges a pervasive and systemic pattern of misconduct through which Google sought to consolidate market power and stave off free-market competition,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “In pursuit of outsized profits, Google has caused great harm to online publishers and advertisers and American consumers. This lawsuit marks an important milestone in the Department’s efforts to hold big technology companies accountable for violations of the antitrust laws.”
In its 155-page suit filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, authorities say Google made acquisitions to boost its advertising division that effectively forced advertisers and publishers to use its products, to the detriment of rival advertising firms.
“One industry behemoth, Google, has corrupted legitimate competition in the ad tech industry by engaging in a systematic campaign to seize control of the wide swath of high-tech tools used by publishers, advertisers, and brokers, to facilitate digital advertising,” prosecutors wrote in the suit on Tuesday.
“The Department’s landmark action against Google underscores our commitment to fighting the abuse of market power,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “We allege that Google has captured publishers’ revenue for its own profits and punished publishers who sought out alternatives. Those actions have weakened the free and open internet and increased advertising costs for businesses and for the United States government, including for our military.”
While the litigation is expected to drag on for some time, prosecutors are asking a federal judge to force Google to break up its advertising segment from the rest of the company.
In a statement, Google said the advertising sector has plenty of competition and that prosecutors’ case against the tech giant will make buying advertisements more expensive.
“Today’s lawsuit from the DOJ attempts to pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector,” it said. “DOJ is doubling down on a flawed argument that would slow innovation, raise advertising fees, and make it harder for thousands of small businesses and publishers to grow.”