TR Daily 48 States, D.C., Puerto Rico to Investigate Google
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Monday, September 9, 2019

48 States, D.C., Puerto Rico to Investigate Google

A bipartisan coalition of 50 attorneys general, including those from 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, today announced the launch of an investigation to determine if Google LLC had engaged in anticompetitive behavior in violation of state and federal laws.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R.) is leading the investigation, which will focus on “Google’s dominance in the telecommunications and search engine industries, as well as the potential harm caused to consumers and the economy from any anticompetitive conduct.”

California and Alabama have not signed onto the investigation.

“Now, more than ever, information is power, and the most important source of information in Americans’ day-to-day lives is the Internet. When most Americans think of the Internet, they no doubt think of Google,” AG Paxton said in a statement. “There is nothing wrong with a business becoming the biggest game in town if it does so through free market competition, but we have seen evidence that Google’s business practices may have undermined consumer choice, stifled innovation, violated users’ privacy, and put Google in control of the flow and dissemination of online information. We intend to closely follow the facts we discover in this case and proceed as necessary.”

AG Paxton noted today that previous investigations of Google had “uncovered violations ranging from advertising illegal drugs in the United States to now three antitrust actions brought by the European Commission.” None of the previous investigations, however, fully addressed the “source of Google’s sustained market power and the ability to engage in serial and repeated business practices with the intention to protect and maintain that power,” he said.

“Google’s control over nearly every aspect of our lives has placed the company at the center of our digital economy. But it doesn’t take a search engine to understand that unchecked corporate power shouldn’t eclipse consumers’ rights. That is why New York has joined this bipartisan investigation of Google to determine whether the company has achieved or maintained its dominance through anticompetitive conduct. As with the Facebook investigation we are leading, we will use every investigative tool at our disposal in the Google investigation to ensure the truth is exposed,” New York Attorney General Leticia James (D.) said today.

Last week, AG James announced that her office had joined with other state attorneys general to look into whether Facebook Inc., had engaged in any anticompetitive conduct. The investigation, she said, “focuses on Facebook's dominance in the industry and the potential anticompetitive conduct stemming from that dominance” (TR Daily, Sept. 6). AG James said the attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia were participating in that investigation.

Google, in response to the investigation, referred to a blog post Friday in which it said that “governments should have oversight to ensure that all successful companies, including ours, are complying with the law.”

“We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us. The DoJ has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions. We have always worked constructively with regulators, and we will continue to do so,” said Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president-global affairs, in a blog post.

“We look forward to showing how we are investing in innovation, providing services that people want, and engaging in robust and fair competition,” he added.

Public Knowledge today said it supported the investigations into Google and Facebook.

“It is now clear that a number of states, as well as our two antitrust enforcement agencies, are taking the power of digital platforms seriously. For too long, the substantial and persistent market power of these companies has gone largely unexamined. Opening these antitrust investigations is an important and powerful step forward. Antitrust enforcement in this space can help consumers and innovative competitors access markets for platforms that are more fair and more competitive,” said Charlotte Slaiman, senior policy counsel at Public Knowledge. —Carrie DeLeon, [email protected]

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