In a blog post by SVP of Global Affairs Kent Walker, Google responded on Tuesday to the arguments found in the antitrust action brought against it by the U.S. Department of Justice the same day, asserting that consumers are not forced to use their search services, but that they choose to because the company offers the “best search engine possible,” and it is “constantly improving and fine-tuning it.” Speaking in his individual capacity at a technology conference, former CEO Eric Schmidt shared similar sentiments stating that there is a difference between ‘dominance and excellence.’
Calling Google the ‘Monopoly Gatekeeper of the Internet’ in an accompanying statement, the suit brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleges that the company unlawfully maintains “a monopoly in general search services and search advertising,” in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act and focuses on the company’s use of what are referred to as ‘exclusionary’ agreements with Apple and anti-forking, preinstallation and revenue sharing agreements centered around the Android mobile operating system. The DOJ said that the company had close to 60% of all general search queries and collects $40 billion in annual revenue from advertisers.
Google’s arguments state that the referenced contracts are “no different than agreements traditionally used to distribute software,” and use the example of how a cereal brand might “pay a supermarket to stock its products at the end of a row or on a shelf at eye level,” with the home screen of a digital device comparable to the ‘eye level shelf’ when it comes to digital services. Since the company doesn’t control the ‘shelves,’ or the home screens of the devices, it asserts that it does not exercise monopolistic power.
Specifically, as to Apple devices, the company also provided instructions that illustrate how on desktops one click leads to various alternative options to its search engine and as to wireless carriers and device makers, Google noted that such companies often preload phones with numerous competing apps and app stores. It also stated that enabling the free distribution of its Android mobile operating system reduces the prices of devices for consumers.
On desktops for PC’s, Google notes that its search engine is not preloaded and in fact, Microsoft’s Bing offering is the default search engine. Separately, Schmidt also made note of what he described as ‘ruthless competition’ in the space. As to its own Chrome web browser, Google says that it makes it ‘trivially easy’ to change default search engines. Finally, Google notes that consumers are not limited to search engines when it comes to seeking information on the internet, but utilize a wide variety of options such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Kayak.
Saying that the DOJ’s actions could “artificially prop up lower quality search engines, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use,” Google highlighted that its own search engine “has put the world’s information at the fingertips of over a billion people.” And according to Schmidt, the suit serves to distract “from more serious issues facing the technology industry and country,” especially competition with China and the resulting splintering of the internet.