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No evidence Google harmed competitors by limiting search visibility

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia failed to find evidence that Google harmed rivals by limiting their search visibility.

While Google was cleared in this aspect of a DOJ antitrust lawsuit that began in 2020, Google will still be in court starting Sept. 12. Google will defend claims relating to its Search Ads 360 product, as well as deals the company has struck to ensure it is the default search engine on mobile devices and browsers.

Why we care. It will be worth watching to see whether Google is found guilty of stifling competition in ad buying or in its mobile phone and browser deals – and whether any of this ultimately leads to any changes for search marketers.

Claim: Google weakened Specialized Vertical Providers (SVPs). Google was accused of harming niche companies (e.g., Expedia or TripAdvisor in travel; OpenTable in restaurant reservations; Amazon or eBay in shopping). Specifically by:

  • Limiting the visibility of SVPs in Google’s search results.
  • Demanding that SVPs make their data available to Google on terms no less favorable than it does to others.
  • “With respect to those allegations, Plaintiffs have not demonstrated the requisite anticompetitive effect in the relevant markets to make out a Section 2 prima facie case,” wrote judge Amit P. Mehta.

Claim: Google uses Search Ads 360 to thwart competitors. Google remains accused of “harming competition by delaying the implementation of various SA360 product features for Microsoft Ads that have long been available for Google Ads, thus harming Microsoft’s ability to compete.” Other rival tools mentioned were Skai, Marin and Adobe.

Google launched a new version of SA360 in February 2022, which added four features (call extensions, dynamic search ads, responsive search ads and local inventory ads), and said it was testing a fifth missing feature (auction-time bidding) at issue.

  • “…there remains a genuine dispute of material fact with regard to the anticompetitive effect of Google’s disparate development of SA360’s ad-buying features. Summary judgment is therefore denied as to that part of the Attorneys General’s claims,” Mehta wrote.

What Google is saying. Google published the following statement via Court dismisses state AG claims about Google Search:

  • “We appreciate the Court’s careful consideration and decision to dismiss claims regarding the design of Google Search. Our engineers build Search to provide the best results and help you quickly find what you’re looking for. People have more ways than ever to access information, and they choose to use Google because it’s helpful. We look forward to showing at trial that promoting and distributing our services is both legal and pro-competitive,” said Kent Walker, Google’s President of Global Affairs & Chief Legal Officer.

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