Google developed the world's most popular internet search engine. But now the company has landed in legal trouble for allegedly stifling competition and harming consumer choice.
The US Department of Justice and 11 states on Tuesday filed an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc.'s Google, claiming it acted unlawfully to maintain its position in search and advertising on the internet.
The lawsuit marks the US government's most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking antitrust case against Microsoft Corp in 1998, that was credited with clearing the way for the explosive growth of the internet.
The search engine giant uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to pay phone manufacturers to ensure it is the default search engine on browsers, the suit alleges.
"Absent a court order, Google will continue executing its anti-competitive strategy, crippling the competitive process, reducing consumer choice, and stifling innovation," the document states.
Google, owned by parent company Alphabet Inc, owns the leading web browser Chrome, the world's largest smartphone operating system in Android, the top video site in YouTube and the most popular digital mapping system.
Its web search engine controls around 90% of global searches.
"Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth," US Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told reporters. "It has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition."
The Justice Department is not seeking specific changes in Google's structure but is not ruling out seeking additional relief either, officials said.
Google responded immediately via a tweet saying: "Today's lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to — not because they're forced to or because they can't find alternatives."
The company has long maintained that although its businesses are large, they are useful and beneficial to consumers.
Probes by state attorneys general into Google's broader businesses are under way, as well as an investigation of its broader digital advertising businesses. These could lead to further lawsuits.
A group of attorneys general led by Texas is expected to file a separate lawsuit focused on digital advertising as soon as November, while a group led by Colorado is contemplating a more expansive lawsuit against Google.
kmm/jlw (Reuters, AP)