The US Justice Department sued Google on Tuesday over its dominance of the online advertising market, kicking off a new legal battle against the California-based tech giant.
The federal antitrust lawsuit accused Google of illegally maintaining a monopoly that had “corrupted legitimate competition in the ad technology industry.”
“Google has used anticompetitive, exclusive, and illegal means to eliminate or seriously reduce any threat to its dominance of digital advertising technologies,” the lawsuit added.
The case was initiated by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in conjunction with eight states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia.
Central to the case is Google’s dominance of the ad tech business, the technology companies rely on for their online needs.
Prosecutors said Google now “controls” the critical sector, meaning website creators earn less and advertisers pay more, while innovation is stifled by a lack of rivals.
“In pursuit of big profits, Google has caused great harm to Internet publishers and advertisers and to American consumers,” Deputy US Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement.
The federal case follows state lawsuits against Google that have alleged it illegally dominates the markets for online search, advertising technology and apps on the Android mobile platform.
Google has strongly denied it is a monopoly, saying competitors in the online ad market include Amazon, Facebook-owned Meta and Microsoft.
“Today’s action by the Department of Justice attempts to pick winners and losers in the highly competitive field of ad tech,” a Google spokesperson said in an email.
The lawsuit “doubles down on a flawed argument that will slow innovation, raise advertising fees and make it harder for thousands of small businesses and publishers to grow,” Google added.
The Computer & Communications Industry Association, a major technology lobby, said the lawsuit failed to take into account offline competitors that include newspaper and television and radio advertising.
“The government’s claim that digital advertising does not compete with print, broadcast and outdoor advertising defies logic,” the CCIA said in a statement.
The United States is home to global tech giants Google, Apple, Amazon and Meta and has relied heavily on the courts to limit their power.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden urged Republican and Democratic lawmakers to break years of political gridlock and pass laws that would tighten rules on big tech.