Wednesday, June 24, 2020

DOJ, State Attorneys General to Confer on Google Antitrust Challenge

The Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general are scheduled to meet Friday to talk about next steps in bringing a likely antitrust case against Alphabet Inc.’s Google, according to The Wall Street Journal citing people familiar with the matter.

Federal and state officials are expected to meet virtually to talk about the scope of any legal complaint against the search giant, as well as the states’ current thinking on joining a Justice Department lawsuit or setting out on their own, the people said.

The WSJ reported last month that both the Justice Department and a group of states are likely to sue Google on allegations that the company is using its dominant position to suppress competition, and are well into litigation planning. The Journal reported that the department’s lawsuit could come as soon as this summer.

Google has repeatedly denied that it runs its businesses in an anticompetitive manner.

“We continue to engage with the ongoing investigations led by Attorney General Barr and Texas Attorney General Paxton,” a Google spokeswoman said. “Our focus is firmly on creating free products that help Americans every day and lower costs for small businesses.”

Because Google holds a powerful position in several markets, one key question for any government case is how much of the company’s conduct antitrust enforcers are prepared to challenge.

One focal point has been Google’s online advertising business, where the company owns the dominant tool at every link in the complex chain between online publishers and advertisers.

The Justice Department has been preparing to challenge Google’s ad-market conduct and also wants to address broader concerns that Google uses its dominant search business to stifle competition, the Journal has reported.

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