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Google just won a partial reprieve in one of the antitrust cases leveled against the company. Federal Judge Amit Mehta has ruled that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and key states can’t claim that Google is protecting a monopoly by promoting its own products in search results over alternatives. The plaintiffs haven’t proved there’s an “anticompetitive effect,” according to the decision. Judge Mehta also tossed antitrust allegations regarding Android’s compatibility and anti-fragmentation agreements, Google Assistant, internet of things devices and the Android Open Source Project.
The DOJ can still make its remaining arguments, Judge Mehta says. Notably, officials claim Google is abusing its power through deals that require Android manufacturers to both pre-load Google apps and make Google the default search engine in their mobile browsers. The DOJ and states are concerned this prevents rivals like Bing and DuckDuckGo from gaining significant adoption.
In a statement to Engadget, Google President of Global Affairs Kent Walker says the company welcomes the judge’s “careful consideration” when dismissing the search issues. He maintains that people choose Google only “because it’s helpful,” and that the firm would show at trial that its other practices are both competitive and lawful. We’ve asked the DOJ for comment and will let you know if we hear back.
The DOJ and partner states filed the lawsuit in 2020. They didn’t advocate for specific penalties at the time, but punishments could include fines, business restrictions and splitting divisions into separate companies. At the time, Google defended itself by arguing that it still had to negotiate partnerships and had competitions from services like Twitter (now X) and Expedia.
This isn’t the only antitrust case against Google, including in the US. An alliance of states sued Google in 2020 over allegedly anticompetitive ad pricing. However, the narrowed scope might make the case more difficult, not to mention limit the potential damages.