Google faces its third major antitrust lawsuit as Texas and other states take the company to court over its ad practices

Google's CEO Sundar Pichai
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai

A group of state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against Google on Wednesday accusing it of engaging in anticompetitive behavior by abusing its dominance in online ad sales.

“The state of Texas is filing a multistate lawsuit against Google for anticompetitive conduct, exclusionary practices, and deceptive misrepresentations,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a Facebook post on Wednesday announcing the suit. “Google repeatedly used its monopolistic powers to control pricing” and “engage in market collusions to rig [ad] auctions.”

The lawsuit is the first to focus on Google’s control over the real-time auctions that determine how much advertisers pay to reach consumers, and is separate from two additional antitrust cases being brought against the company.

In a statement to Business Insider, a Google spokesperson called Paxton’s ad tech claims “meritless,” and accused him of pushing ahead “in spite of all the facts.”

“We’ve invested in state-of-the-art ad tech services that help businesses and benefit consumers. Digital ad prices have fallen over the last decade. Ad tech fees are falling too. Google’s ad tech fees are lower than the industry average. These are the hallmarks of a highly competitive industry. We will strongly defend ourselves from his baseless claims in court,” the Google spokesperson said.

In October, the US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Google, accusing it of using a network of illegal, exclusionary business deals to disadvantage smaller competitors and build an unfair advantage in search and online advertising. Several states including California have since joined that case.

On Tuesday, Politico reported that another bipartisan group of state attorneys general – led by Colorado and Nebraska – plan to file a complaint against Google as early as Thursday, according to Politico. That lawsuit is expected to accuse the company of unfairly modifying its search engine to boost results for its own products while disadvantaging results for competitors.

The lawsuit Texas filed Wednesday stems from an investigation launched in September 2019 that state attorneys general from 48 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico joined.

Federal and state regulators have grown increasingly aggressive in probing major tech companies over potential monopolistic behavior, and in recent months have filed major lawsuits that could have huge impacts on those businesses as well as their users, customers, and competitors.

Last week, Facebook was hit with two massive antitrust lawsuits  – one from the Federal Trade Commission and one from a group of 46 states – both seeking to spin off Instagram and WhatsApp from the social media company.

European regulators, which have long been ahead of their US counterparts in taking on tech companies over antitrust concerns, have also filed lawsuits, opened investigations, and issued fines this year against tech giants including AmazonApple, and Facebook

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