Google is in the midst of a significant legal battle in the United Kingdom as it stands accused of stifling competition within the search engine market and driving up prices throughout the nation’s economy. The lawsuit, filed with the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal, seeks an astonishing £7 billion ($8.7 billion) in damages, representing virtually every consumer in the country. The claim argues that Google violated competition law by monopolizing mobile search and using its dominant position to increase advertising costs, ultimately passing these expenses on to consumers.
The crux of the lawsuit lies in Google’s tactics of bundling its search engine with other applications and services, effectively locking out potential competition. This includes the requirement for smartphone manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google Chrome browser apps in exchange for access to the Google Play app store. Furthermore, Google allegedly paid Apple to ensure its status as the default search engine on Safari browsers used in Apple devices.
Nikki Stopford, a consumer rights advocate and the class representative in the lawsuit, firmly states that this behaviour is a clear breach of competition law, and consumers are bearing the brunt of it. Google has faced regulatory warnings in the past, but these actions aim to hold the company accountable for its persistent violations.
The claim, which purports to represent 65 million UK consumers, could result in compensation of approximately £100 per individual if successful. Google, however, vehemently opposes the lawsuit, labelling it “speculative and opportunistic.” The tech giant asserts that its revenue relies on useful and relevant advertisements, as determined by real-time auctions.
This lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal challenges Google has faced worldwide, reflecting the growing scrutiny by regulatory authorities over its business practices. In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is already investigating Google for suspected anti-competitive actions within its ad tech operations.