US states confirm antitrust investigation into Google dominance in online ads, search

Marco Green
September 10, 2019

Fifty states and territories have announced a broad investigation into Google's "potential monopolistic behaviour".

A separate state coalition, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, is investigating whether Facebook stifles competition, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"The state investigations put an additional layer of pressure on both" Google and Google parent company Alphabet, "which are already facing antitrust scrutiny on the federal level", CNBC reported.

"It remains to be seen if the (attorneys general) have any merit to their complaints or if they will be conducting a fishing expedition hoping to find some damning evidence", Mr Goldman said. Yelp Inc., which has long complained about the search company's practices, said biased search results that steer users to Google's own products harm consumers.

Google is accustomed to antitrust probes, after the several past and present investigations and actions against it.

The probe includes AGs from 48 USA states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, with California and Alabama the only two states whose AGs are not involved. Tara Gallegos, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, declined to confirm or deny any state investigation and would not comment on the announcement by the other states.

According to research firm eMarketer, Google leads the USA digital ad market with a 37.2 percent share worth some $48 billion this year and is expected to control 20 percent of all USA ad spending, online and offline combined.

"We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us", Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs for Google, wrote in a recent blog post.

Critics often point to Google's 2007 acquisition of online advertising company DoubleClick as pivotal to its advertising dominance. As the probe could expand beyond its advertising business.

"We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so", Google said.

"If Google has gained its advantages in the marketplace through free and fair competition, then let the chips fall where they will", said Hill.

Scott Morton, the Yale professor, said most states have laws that mimic federal antitrust laws, but it can be harder for state attorneys general to enforce those laws because they don't usually have in-house antitrust experts. The company dominates the market with its search business, its ownership of Adsense, which sells ads, and in videos ads through YouTube, which Google also owns.

Google has become synonymous with search, and it has used its dominant position in that market to create a lucrative advertising business.

Experts believe the probe could focus on at least one of three areas that have caught regulators' eyes.

It is followed by Facebook that has more than 22 per cent of the advertising market share. "Right now it's about advertising, but the facts will lead where they lead", Paxton added. He noted that many Alaskan businesses rely on the internet to reach customers across the country.

Google is officially the focus of a sweeping antitrust investigation. "Google has been subjected to more than $8 billion in fines by the European Union in the last two years, approximately".

Google's smartphone operating system, Android, is the most widely used in the world.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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