Google’s global monopoly is under threat as countries continue to file antitrust cases against it.
Over the last couple of years, tech giant Google has been getting caught up in antitrust lawsuits across the world. From 2017 to 2019, the tech company has been fined US$9.4 billion in Europe alone. In 2021, Google has been hit with a US$177 million fine in South Korea and is undergoing an investigation by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
Google has been getting major regulatory pushback even within its home turf. In 2020, three antitrust cases were filed against the company by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and over three dozen U.S. states.
But why do these antitrust cases continue to pop up? Let’s try to untangle the web of Google’s antitrust lawsuits by looking at the main reason behind these cases and find out what these lawsuits mean for the future.
Monopolizing the market
One of the common issues for which Google has been receiving flak is that it monopolizes the Android market. According to the findings of India’s CCI, Google has been the dominant operating system (OS) for 98% of the smartphone market in the country.
The investigation also revealed that Google has been stifling competition in search, browser, music, app library and other services. Similar concerns were raised by the U.S. DOJ in 2020. The DOJ claimed that Google occupied an 80% market share in the search engine business. This is due to Google’s deals with smartphone makers to set it as the default search engine on browsers and smartphones.
Preventing android forks
The antitrust lawsuit in South Korea details how local smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and LG Electronics are barred from making any changes to their operating systems through Google’s anti-fragmentation agreements (AFA). Under these agreements, companies are not allowed to make Android variations (known as “Android forks”).
In 2013, Samsung launched a smartwatch with a customized OS. The company was then compelled to change its OS by Google under AFA.
In 2020, India’s CCI began investigating Google for abusing its dominant position in the app store market. One of the reasons for this was the notice released in October 2020 by the company, saying that it would charge a 30% cut in all in-app payments for allowing applications to use the Play Store’s payment system and Google Play in-app billing.
The South Korean regulators also took action on in-app payments by passing a law that stops tech giants Apple and Google from only offering their own in-app payment systems on September 8, 2021.
What do these recurring anti-trust lawsuits mean for Google?
With so many countries and even individual states within the U.S. filing antitrust cases against Google, it means that the tech company will have to continue spending a pretty penny in paying all the fines it is being charged.
Search engine businesses like Yelp and Tripadvisor have been arguing against Google’s monopolistic practices for a long time. Much like the regulatory action taken by South Korea, it is possible that Google might experience other breaks in its monopoly in the future.
The sentiment on why this might be tough to do is best surmised by the dating app developer Match Group’s spokeswoman Vidhya Murugesan. “Apple and Google’s monopolistic practices will only end when we bring our laws into the digital age,” she said in a statement about a lawsuit against Apple in 2020.
Header image courtesy of Unsplash