Google Scores Legal Victory as Judge Rejects Antitrust Claims

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit accusing Google of forcing handset makers that use the Android operating system to make its own applications the default option.

Consumers claimed that Google required companies such as Samsung and HTC to give its own apps, such as YouTube and Google Search, preferential treatment on Android-powered phones, and restrict rival apps such as Microsoft’s Bing.

Consumer rights law firm Hagens Berman filed the lawsuit on May 1 on behalf of two Android smartphone users who alleged that Google “illegally monopolized” the Internet and mobile search market in the U.S.

“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 had argued, adding that Google was “choking” competition.

Google said in December that it wanted the case to be dismissed, claiming that Android does not limit the choice presented to consumers. The firm was granted its wish on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose, California, ruled that the consumers failed to show that higher prices stemmed from Google’s alleged forced restrictive contracts on the handset makers.

She also said that she could not tell how many supply chain levels there were between the handset makers that signed the alleged anti-competitive contracts, and the consumers themselves.

“Their alleged injuries – supra-competitive prices and threatened loss of innovation and consumer choice – are not the necessary means by which defendant is allegedly accomplishing its anti-competitive ends,” Freeman wrote.

She added, as Google had argued, that “there are no facts alleged to indicate that defendant’s conduct has prevented consumers from freely choosing among search products or prevented competitors from innovating.”

The judge is allowing the plaintiffs three weeks to amend their complaint to seek injunctive relief instead of monetary damages. 

Google has yet to comment on the dismissal, probably because it is too busy celebrating. 

However, the firm still faces antitrust cases in Europe. The European Parliament urged antitrust authorities in November to break up the company and called on the European Commission to consider proposals to unbundle search engines from other services.

This article was originally published on the Inquirer.

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