The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia did not find proof that Google harmed competitors by limiting their search visibility.
Although Google was cleared of this aspect of a DOJ antitrust lawsuit from 2020, the company will still face court proceedings starting on September 12th. Google will defend against claims related to its Search Ads 360 product, as well as agreements the company has made to become the default search engine on mobile devices and browsers.
Why is this important? It will be interesting to see if Google is found guilty of suppressing competition in ad buying, mobile phone usage, or browser deals. Additionally, this case may lead to changes for search marketers.
Claim: Google harmed Specialized Vertical Providers (SVPs). Google was accused of disadvantaging niche companies in various sectors such as travel, restaurant reservations, and shopping. Specifically, Google was accused of:
- Limiting the visibility of SVPs in Google’s search results.
- Demanding that SVPs provide their data to Google on equal terms as others.
According to Judge Amit P. Mehta, “Plaintiffs have not shown enough evidence of an anticompetitive effect in the relevant markets to make a prima facie case under Section 2.”
Claim: Google exploited Search Ads 360 to suppress competitors. Google remains accused of “hindering competition by delaying the release of various SA360 product features for Microsoft Ads that have long been available for Google Ads, thereby putting Microsoft at a disadvantage.” Other competing tools mentioned were Skai, Marin, and Adobe.
In February 2022, Google launched a new version of SA360 that introduced four features and was testing a fifth feature. However, Judge Mehta stated that there is still a genuine dispute regarding the anticompetitive effect of Google’s development of SA360’s ad-buying features.
According to Google, “We appreciate the Court’s careful consideration and decision to dismiss claims regarding the design of Google Search. Our engineers create Search to deliver the best results and assist users in finding what they need quickly. With the multitude of information access options available, people choose Google because it is helpful. We look forward to proving at trial that the promotion and distribution of our services are both legal and pro-competitive,” said Kent Walker, Google’s President of Global Affairs & Chief Legal Officer.
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