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Google Antitrust Case: Closing Arguments Conclude

 |  May 5, 2024

Google and the U.S. Justice Department have completed their closing arguments regarding allegations that the Alphabet unit has unlawfully dominated web search and related advertising.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, presiding over the case in Washington, extensively questioned both parties, particularly focusing on whether competitive platforms like ByteDance’s TikTok and Meta’s Facebook and Instagram could serve as substitutes for search advertising dollars. According to Reuters, Mehta emphasized the crucial issue of platform “substitute-ability” for advertisers, a factor central to resolving the case. The judge has yet to announce a ruling timeline, but experts speculate that it could potentially lead to significant changes in Google’s business practices.

During the proceedings, government lawyer David Dahlquist asserted that Google’s monopoly power is primarily driven by advertising revenue, which constitutes approximately three quarters of its total revenue. Dahlquist highlighted Google’s alleged lack of market pressure, arguing that the company can increase pricing or stagnate product improvements without fear of losing revenue—a hallmark characteristic of monopolistic behavior.

Read more: Why This Google Antitrust Lawsuit Has Promise

In defense, Google’s lawyer John Schmidtlein countered by pointing out that Google’s share of U.S. digital advertising revenue has been steadily declining. Schmidtlein emphasized the competitive landscape, citing platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon as significant players that constrain Google’s market dominance by offering alternative advertising options. He further argued that Google consistently innovates its search advertising products, indicating a commitment to improving its offerings rather than exploiting its monopoly position, Reuters reported.

The trial, which commenced on September 12, has seen witnesses from companies like Verizon and Samsung Electronics testify about Google’s annual payments, totaling $26.3 billion in 2021, to secure default search positions on smartphones and browsers. Additionally, the government has raised concerns about Google’s alleged intentional destruction of internal documents relevant to the case, with Mehta probing the company’s prior document retention policies.

Amidst accusations of document destruction, Mehta questioned Google’s practices, suggesting that consequences might be warranted for what he deemed as subpar preservation efforts. However, Google’s representative, Colette Connor, defended the company’s data preservation practices as reasonable and urged the court against imposing sanctions.

The case, initiated during the Trump administration, marks the first of several legal battles aimed at curbing the market power of tech giants—a contentious issue at the intersection of antitrust law and digital innovation. As the trial concludes, the verdict and potential ramifications are awaited with bated breath, as they could significantly impact the landscape of internet commerce and competition.

Source: Reuters