Google is facing an antitrust lawsuit over its alleged monopoly of the mobile search market.
Consumer rights law firm Hagens Berman filed the lawsuit May 1 on behalf of two Android smartphone users who alleged that Google "illegally monopolized" the internet and mobile search market in the US. The complaint argued that given its placement of its own apps on Android smartphones - such as Google Play and Search - through its Mobile Application Distribution Agreements (MADA), it is stifling competition in the market.
This isn't the first time Google has been accused of such practices, with Fairsearch Europe - a group whose members include Microsoft and Nokia – having attacked Google last year for the same thing.
According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, these agreements were hidden and marked to be viewed only by attorneys, and it alleged that Google is in violation of a variety of federal and state antitrust laws, including the Sherman Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, California Cartwright Act and California unfair competition law.
"It's clear that Google has not achieved this monopoly through offering a better search engine, but through its strategic, anti-competitive placement, and it doesn't take a forensic economist to see that this is evidence of market manipulation," said Steve Berman, founding partner of Hagens Berman. "Simply put, there is no lawful, pro-competitive reason for Google to condition licenses to pre-load popular Google apps like this."
The law firm is arguing that if device manufacturers were able to choose a default search engine other than Google, the quality of mobile search would improve.
"Instead of finding a way to legitimately out-compete other internet and mobile search providers, they instead decided to choke off competition through this cynical, anti-consumer scheme."
A Google spokesperson told Reuters, "Anyone can use Android without Google and anyone can use Google without Android. Since Android's introduction, greater competition in smartphones has given consumers more choices at lower prices."
The lawsuit asks for damages to be awarded to consumers who purchased an Android device sold "at an artificially high price" due to Google's allegedly anti-competitive practices.