Here’s how an antitrust case against Google could play out, and why it might not stick, according to a lawyer who helped go after Microsoft in the ’90s (GOOG)

FILE PHOTO: Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during signing ceremony committing Google to help expand information technology education at El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, U.S. October 3, 2019.  REUTERS/Brandon Wade

Evidence is mounting that Google might soon be hit with at least one major antitrust case in the US.
But it will be a long and complex battle to prove that Google has acted anticompetitively and hurt consumers as a result.
A previous FTC staff attorney who worked on the famous Microsoft antitrust case in the ’90s explained how a case could play out, and why it won’t be an easy battle.
“Ultimately, you’ve got to show that consumers are suffering higher prices or less choice,” he said.
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A serious antitrust case against Google is apparently gaining momentum, and could see the company slapped with a lawsuit as soon as this summer.

Google has had a sizeable antitrust target on its back for years, paying multiple fines to Brussels (the official seat of the European Commission), but we could be about to see the most significant case brought against the company in the US.

Google is a big business – even bigger if we’re considering its holding company Alphabet – but it’s the company’s advertising practices which seem to be at the forefront of regulators minds. Is Google acting in a way that hurts competitors? Does that also hurt consumers? Those are the big questions lawmakers may soon be grappling with.

But years of pent-up antitrust sentiment in Washington doesn’t make this a slam dunk, according to David Balto, a previous FTC staff attorney. Balto worked on the famous Microsoft investigation in the early 1990s, where the company was found to have violated antitrust laws following a huge battle in federal court.

Balto told Business Insider that he believes any case against Google will be “an incredibly difficult” journey for the Department of Justice or the group of state attorneys general reportedly planning to file a case. Government lawyers will need to unpack a very complex business of ads, auctions, and heaps of complicated algorithms to understand not only if Google has been bending rules to its advantage, but if it has had a meaningful effect on consumers.

Here’s how such a case might play out, and why it could prove challenging to lawmakers, according to Balto.

First thing to know: It could take a long time. A very long time

The Microsoft case was dragged out for five years, and it’s possible that any case brought against Google could also last several years.

Investigating the way Google is running its ad business is not a small undertaking. Google will be asked to provide all sorts of information about its ads mechanisms. But it also won’t want to reveal too much of its “secret sauce” here either, which could prolong investigations.

And with one of the probes also looking into other parts of Google’s business such as Android, this has the potential to be stretched out even longer.

It’s ultimately about consumers, not competitors

A key thing Balto points out is that any antitrust case will have to show an impact on consumers — and it might not be easy to prove.

An academic paper, …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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