“A significant number of entities — spanning major public corporations, small businesses and entrepreneurs — depend on Google for traffic, and no alternate search engine serves as a substitute,” the report said. The lawmakers also accused Apple, Amazon and Facebook of abusing their market power. They called for more aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws, and for Congress to consider strengthening them.
The scrutiny reflects how Google has become a dominant player in communications, commerce and media over the last two decades. That business is lucrative: Last year, Google brought in $34.3 billion in search revenue in the United States, according to the research firm eMarketer. That figure is expected to grow to $42.5 billion by 2022, the firm said.
In its complaint, the Justice Department said that Google’s actions had hurt consumers by stifling innovation, reducing choice and diminishing the quality of search services, including consumer data privacy. It also said that advertisers that use its products “must pay a toll to Google’s search advertising and general search text advertising monopolies.”
The lawsuit is the result of an investigation that has stretched for more than a year. Prosecutors have spoken with Google’s rivals in technology and media, collecting information and documents that could be used to build a case.
The Justice Department also investigated Google’s behavior and acquisitions in the overall market for digital advertising, which includes search, web display and video ads.
But the search case is the most straightforward, giving the government its best chance to win. To prevail, the Justice Department has to show two things: that Google is dominant in search, and that its deals with Apple and other companies hobble competition in the search market.
The Justice Department said Google estimates that almost 50 percent of its search traffic originated on Apple devices in 2019. Because it is such a large portion of its queries, Google pays the iPhone maker an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion a year to remain the default option on its phones, iPads and Mac computers.