Recently, the Federal Trade Commission stated they would commence an investigation into Google for potentially violating US antitrust laws. The alleged violations of antitrust law relate to its search policies.
In the past, Google has remained relatively unmaimed by US antitrust investigations. For example, a 2013 FTC antitrust investigation into Google was closed. This contrasts to other jurisdictions, like the European Union. The EU Commission has fined Google three separate times since July 2017. The most recent fine, from March 2019, amounted to 1.49 billion euros. US antitrust investigators may have closed antitrust investigations because of the relatively high threshold required to prove such violations. Some behaviours only violate US antitrust law when they harm consumers.
While Google has remained relatively unmaimed in the past, that trend might not continue. This investigation into Google comes at a time of significant criticism, from various sources, of Google and other large tech companies’ practices. For example, some 2020 presidential candidates have expressed their desire to break up big tech companies. Criticism of large tech companies has not only been limited to statements. In February 2019, the FTC’s Bureau of Competition created a “Technology Task Force” to specifically combat anti-competitive practices in the tech industry. US Senator Klobuchar introduced a bill, in winter 2019, to strengthen US antitrust laws. A court recently ruled that Qualcomm violated antitrust law for their pricing policy.
All this considered, it will be interesting to see the outcome of this investigation. While it be a result that please advocates of stronger antitrust laws or an outcome that favours larger tech companies?
Author: Margot Mary Davis