By launching a lawsuit against Google on Tuesday for abuse of dominant position, the American authorities launched the main legal action for almost 20 years against one of the technological pillars of the country, which could eventually reshuffle the cards for GAFA (Google , Amazon, Facebook, Amazon).
“This morning, the Department of Justice and 11 states brought a civil action against Google for unlawful monopoly pursuit of its general search services and advertising search services in violation of US competition laws,” said in a statement William Barr, the United States Minister of Justice.
- Listen to international political columnist Loïc Tassé with Benoit Dutrizac on QUB Radio:
In particular, the complaint accuses Google of forcing consumers and advertisers to use its search engine on mobile devices running the Android operating system through applications that cannot be deleted, which significantly restricts competition.
The department, in its complaint to a federal court in Washington, is vague about its demands. He calls for “structural” changes at Google, which suggests a possible dismantling of parts of the search engine giant.
“We are not ruling out any option, but the question of remedies will have to be decided by the court after hearing our arguments,” Ryan Shores, senior advisor for the technology industry at the Justice Department, said in a statement. briefing with journalists.
The lawsuits could last for several years.
Google described this action, in a tweet, as “deeply biased”.
“People use Google by choice and not because they are forced or because they can not find alternatives”, defended the group of Mountain View (California).
Like its competitors Amazon, Facebook and Apple, Google has been in the crosshairs of US authorities for several years.
Various investigations have indeed been launched against the GAFA by federal agencies, parliamentary committees as well as the prosecutors of almost all American states.
The announcement on Tuesday of the new prosecutions comes after a major investigation launched in the summer of 2019 by the Department of Justice into the almighty power of the American internet pillars.
At the political level, these groups have drawn the wrath of both conservative elected officials, who accuse them of partiality, and progressive elected officials, who worry about the infringements of competition law and the reinforcement of inequalities caused by Big Tech.
Republican Senator from Missouri Josh Hawley, very critical of the GAFA, has also welcomed the lawsuits by the US government, saying it would be “the most important abuse of dominance trial in a row. generation. “
In 2018, Google was fined 4.3 billion euros from the European competition authorities for unfair practices in the Android ecosystem in order to strengthen its dominant position, particularly in the area of search on Internet.
According to Michael Carrier, professor at Rutgers University and specialist in competition law, Google could be forced to remove certain pre-installed applications on devices running the Android system.
Similar accusations were launched in the late 1990s against the computer group Microsoft. In 2001 and after nearly three years of proceedings, the Ministry of Justice then almost succeeded in dismantling the IT group.
For some experts, however, the date chosen to announce these lawsuits, just two weeks before the US presidential election on November 3, raises questions.
“This raises the possibility that political concerns play a role,” says Carrier.
The attorneys general of the 11 states that have joined the lawsuits (Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas and Montana) are all Republicans.
Moreover, the outcome of this legal action is anything but certain, according to other specialists.
To win in court, the US government will have to successfully prove that Google’s monopoly practices harm consumers.
The group rejects these accusations by ensuring that its services are free, which benefits the greatest number.
“One of the reasons the US tech industry is envied around the world is its antitrust policy which encourages dynamic markets, which rewards innovators and penalizes weak rivals,” says Matt Schruers of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. , a group close to the big names in the sector.
According to Schruers, the lawsuit was “rushed on the eve of an election where the administration is aggressively lobbying tech companies to act in its favor. Competition law should be guided by the interests of consumers and not by political motives. “