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DOJ could bring antitrust charges against Google before this month ends


Over the last year, major tech firms have been accused of being anti-competitive monopolies. Apple has been accused of this because of the App Store and the so-called 30% Apple Tax. The company takes a 30% cut of in-app purchases and as it just demonstrated by tossing popular game Fortnite out of the App Store, the company likes to flex its muscles. When Fortnite developer Epic Games added a screen allowing those who installed it from the App Store to bypass Apple’s in-app payment system and make payments directly to Epic, Apple flipped.

Google might catch a break thanks to Barr’s decision to impose a deadline on the DOJ’s investigation

Because Apple doesn’t allow users to sideload apps, iOS and iPadOS users are locked into using the App Store to install apps. While Google takes 30% of  Google Play Store in-app payments, it does allow Android users to sideload apps from other app stores. But Google parent Alphabet is also accused of being a monopoly and the New York Times reported today that the Justice Department plans to file antitrust charges against the company as soon as this month.

The report claims that Justice Department officials ordered the greater than 40 lawyers working on the case to wrap things up by the end of September. However, most of the aforementioned attorneys were against the DOJ deadline with many threatening not to sign any complaint against Alphabet. Most of the lawyers considered the deadline to be arbitrary. Now this doesn’t mean that the attorneys think that Alphabet and Google should get off scott free. Instead, those opposing the deadline believe that a strong case against Alphabet could be made even stronger by not running into a deadline. There was also some disagreement among the lawyers over how broad the complaint should be and over what actions they will demand that Google take to settle any complaint.

Some of the lawyers said that they believe the DOJ placed an early deadline on the investigation so that Attorney General Bill Barr could announce the case in September. That would allow the nation’s top law enforcement official to give credit to the Trump administration for taking down one of the country’s top tech firms. Barr is a former telecom executive who has been studying the case while on vacation. 15 of the 40 lawyers working on the case or briefed on it said (on an anonymous basis for fear of retribution) that putting a deadline on the investigation could improve Google’s chances of winning an anti-trust battle.

Google’s huge market share in online search is one of the issues being investigated. And that huge market share has turned into huge competitive advantages for Google when it comes to online advertising. Globally, the company owns 90% of the search industry and 33% of online ads are run through the Google ecosystem. The company forces those interested in licensing its version of the Android operating system to install its search engine and browser. In 2018, Google was ordered to pay over $5 billion to the European Commission for

requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Chrome apps, paying manufacturers to only have Google Search pre-installed, and for not allowing manufacturers to sell phones with unapproved Android versions.

The lawyers assigned to the Google portion of the investigation were broken into two teams. One group handled Google’s domination in search while the other team focused on its control of online advertising. The assignment for the lawyers involved in investigating Alphabet was considered to be a desirable one with some calling it the case of the century, equal to the breakup of the Standard Oil Company in 1911. The case also gives the U.S. Justice Department the chance to catch up with its European counterparts who had already ordered that Google pay $5 billion for its anti-competitive behavior.

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