(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department and Alphabet’s Google on Thursday ended the evidentiary phase of their legal battle over whether Google broke the law to maintain its dominance over search and some search ads.
Judge Amit Mehta of the US District Court for the District of Columbia will rule sometime in 2024 on whether any of Google’s actions violated antitrust law. According to experts, the following may happen after their decision.
No matter who prevails when Mehta issues his decision, experts say there will be an appeal. Google will appeal if the company is found to be violating antitrust laws. If Google is found innocent of any wrongdoing then the government will appeal. Is this likely to eventually be appealed to the US Supreme Court? “Oh, definitely,” said Megan Gray, an independent tech lobbyist who attended the proceedings.
What is the solution?
If the appeals are exhausted and Google is found not guilty, the case is closed.
But if Google is found to be breaking the law, the Justice Department will go back and ask the judge for measures to mitigate harm to the search and search advertising markets. Experts disagree on whether this step will happen before the appeals are exhausted.
One possible remedy would be to prohibit Google from paying Apple, wireless companies, Android smartphone makers and others billions of dollars to become the default search engine on their devices — $26.3 billion in 2021, according to Lee, the legal adviser to the U.S. Economic Heppner said. Liberties Project. However, Microsoft’s Bing and other search engines will be allowed to be paid by default, increasing the chances of Google rivals getting more users.
If the Justice Department wins the first round, it could also require Mehta to require Google to share data on what users ask Google and what responses they click on, experts said. This is something that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Bing and other search engines need to compete. He says Google’s default search agreements have prevented this from happening.
Google may also require you to close your Chrome browser, which has the Google search engine by default. According to the Justice Department’s amended complaint filed in 2021, Chrome has about 60% of the computer browser market.
Any measure would have an independent monitor ensuring Google’s compliance for many years.
When will the case end?
Experts said the lawsuit was filed in 2020 and it could take until mid-2026 before all appeals are exhausted.
(Reporting by Dianne Bartz in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)