Google’s legal troubles are far from over if Biden wins: antitrust experts

The US Department of Justice’s nascent antitrust case against Google will get the attention it needs to thrive if Democrat Joe Biden wins the US presidency next month, antitrust experts said.

William Kovacic, an antitrust professor at George Washington University Law School, said he expected a Justice Department in Biden would do one of two things: support the case as it is, or modify the complaint to add new claims.

“What they won’t do is drop this case,” Kovacic predicted.

The Justice Department on Tuesday asked a court to determine that Alphabet’s Google violated antitrust laws to maintain its dominance in search and search advertising. Google has denied wrongdoing.

While the Biden campaign declined to comment on the lawsuit, spokesman Bill Russo said a Biden administration would work closely on big tech issues with Rep. David Cicilline, whose House panel released a report accusing Google of Use aggressive business tactics to thwart its search competitors.

Russo added that a Biden administration would pledge to “do far more to ensure that excessive market power everywhere … doesn’t hurt America’s families and workers”.

In May, Biden told the Associated Press that Big Tech’s breakup is “something we should really look into.”

Herbert Hovenkamp, ​​who teaches antitrust law at the University of Pennsylvania’s Carey Law School, believes the federal lawsuit, which focuses closely on Google’s dominance in online search and search advertising, will be expanded under Biden, saying, “The prudent one The procedure is to make as many counts as you can plausibly make. “

A case aimed at holding a company accountable for multiple anti-competitive acts would allow prosecutors to ask for a more significant legal remedy with greater implications for Google.

A Biden government wouldn’t have to think long about how to upgrade its suit. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a veteran of President Barack Obama’s Justice Department, heads a bipartisan group of states that is investigating “the full scope of Google’s activity,” according to a source familiar with the probe.

This means that Colorado may be looking at other aspects of Google’s business, such as allegations that Google is using its popular search feature to favor large advertisers and its products like YouTube.

Weiser and other attorneys general on Tuesday praised the “good cooperation with the DOJ on these serious issues” and said their investigation would end “in the coming weeks.”

“If we decided to file a complaint, we would file a motion to consolidate our case with the DOJs,” they said. The group includes Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.

Of course, it’s also possible that the Biden team is ready to consider reaching an agreement with Google. This is not an indication that the Trump administration has attempted this, but only if it is able to take tough remedial action.

“I’m not predicting an agreement, but I am saying that an agreement will be much more possible,” said Seth Bloom of Bloom Strategic Counsel.

President Donald Trump and other Conservatives have harshly criticized some tech companies for allegedly suppressing conservative voices, a concern Biden’s team wouldn’t share.

Billing options could include Google agreeing to non-discrimination in search or insisting that Google products like Chrome be pre-installed on Android smartphones in exchange for access to the Google Play Store.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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