50 state attorneys general have launched a formal probe into whether Google has engaged in anticompetitive practices in its ads business

AP Photo/Eric GayTexas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
  • Fifty state attorneys general have banded together to launch an investigation into whether Google has stifled competitors in a way that harms users.
  • The investigation, announced on Monday from the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
  • “This investigation is not a lawsuit. It is an investigation to determine the facts,” Paxton said. “Right now we’re looking at advertising, but the facts will lead to where the facts lead.”
  • The group comprises attorneys general from 48 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico; California and Alabama are not part of the investigation.
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Fifty state attorneys general have banded together to launch an investigation into whether Google has stifled competitors in a way that harms users.

The probe, announced on Monday from the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and will first focus on the company’s advertising business.

“This is a company that dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet, as they dominate the buyer side, the seller side, the auction side, and even the video side with YouTube,” Paxton said of Google on Monday.

“This investigation is not a lawsuit. It is an investigation to determine the facts. Right now we’re looking at advertising, but the facts will lead to where the facts lead.”

The group comprises attorneys general from 48 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. Notably, Alabama and California – where Google’s headquarters is – are the only states that have not thrown their support behind the investigation.

Paxton said that the attorneys general had already requested information from Google and that while the investigation would begin by looking into Google’s advertising business, the group would consider examining other facets of the company “if there are other facts that demonstrate that we need to go in another direction.”

In 2019, Google is on pace to own over 31% of the worldwide digital-advertising market, according to eMarketer estimates.

Karl Racine, the attorney general for the District of Columbia, said it was too early in the investigation to speculate about penalties should Google be found to be in violation of the law.

Politicians including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, have called on Google to “unwind” by divesting itself of major acquisitions like its Waze map service, its Nest smart-home hardware company, and its DoubleClick advertising platform.

The announcement from the state attorneys general followed reports on Friday that the Department of Justice had begun its own antitrust investigation into Google. The search giant said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing released last week that the DOJ had requested information about its previous antitrust probes in the US and abroad.

A Google representative declined to comment for this story and instead pointed to last week’s blog post from Kent Walker, its senior vice president of global affairs, acknowledging that the DOJ had requested information from Google and that the company expected similar questions from state attorneys general.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal also confirmed that state AGs led by Letitia James of New York were planning a separate investigation into Facebook to evaluate its grip on competitors and whether it mishandled user data. Facebook acknowledged in July that it was under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission over antitrust concerns.

Google faced a federal antitrust investigation in 2013 by the FTC regarding its search and smartphone business practices. Google walked away without incurring any financial penalties, committing itself only to vague promises to change some of its business practices.


Read more:
Here’s what could happen to Google and its $US137 billion business empire if it loses the antitrust battle

European regulators, on the other hand, have taken a sharper stance with Google, fining the tech giant roughly $US10 billion in recent years for various anticompetitive practices involving its advertising, search, and mobile businesses.

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (209) 730-3387 using a non-work phone, email at [email protected], Telegram at nickbastone, or Twitter DM at @nickbastone.

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