Google is paying $10 billion a year to Apple and other smartphone manufacturers to secure its position as the world’s top online search engine, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has said.
While Google Search is undeniably the world’s most widely used search engine, the DOJ alleged that Google pays billions of dollars annually to Apple, Samsung, and other device manufacturers to make Google Search the default search engine on their devices.
The DOJ claims that these payments grant Google an unfair edge over its rivals and hinder competition within the search market. Google, on the other hand, has refuted these allegations, stating that it makes these payments to ensure a positive user experience.
These revelations came to light on the opening day of the most significant tech antitrust trial in two decades. Lawyers for the DOJ argued that Google had used these agreements with companies such as Apple, Samsung, and Mozilla Firefox to establish Google Search as the default option on their smartphones and web browsers.
“In a packed courtroom at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in Washington, the Justice Department and states painted a picture of how Google had used its deep pockets and dominant position, paying $10 billion a year to Apple and others to be the default search provider on smartphones,” The New York Times reported.
“This feedback loop, this wheel, has been turning for more than 12 years,” said Kenneth Dintzer, the Justice Department’s lead courtroom lawyer. “And it always turns to Google’s advantage.”
According to The Times, the DOJ lawyers described these agreements as “powerful strategic weapons,” intentionally designed to create insurmountable barriers for competitors seeking to challenge Google’s dominance in the search market.
“This case is about the future of the internet and whether Google’s search engine will ever face meaningful competition,” Kenneth Dintzer, the Justice Department’s lawyer, told the court in statements also reported by the Associated Press (AP).
However, Google’s legal team countered these allegations by stating that the company had not illegally employed agreements to safeguard its market share. They argued that Google’s products were inherently superior to competitors, and users always had the option to switch search engines if they so desired.
The DOJ’s lawsuit, filed during the Trump administration in 2020, alleges that Google engaged in anticompetitive practices to prevent others from challenging the dominance of Google Search.
This legal battle poses a substantial threat to Google’s business and is likely to shape the regulatory landscape for major tech companies in the coming decade. Furthermore, this lawsuit is just one of several legal challenges facing Google, with another DOJ lawsuit filed in January 2023 focusing on Google’s ad tech business and seeking the breakup of certain components of Google’s Ad Manager suite to address allegations of anticompetitive behavior.