Antitrust lawsuit accuses Google of mobile and Internet search monopoly

More legal mud has been slung against Google, and this time it's an antitrust class action lawsuit over in the US which accuses the big G of holding an illegal monopoly over Internet and mobile search in America.

The suit, which was filed in Northern California by consumer and employee rights law outfit Hagens Berman, claims that this search monopoly has been driven by Google's purchase of Android. The law firm contends that by preloading its services and apps (Google Play and YouTube are named as examples) onto the mobile operating system via "secret" Mobile Application Distribution Agreements with smartphone vendors, Google has maintained (and indeed expanded) its search monopoly.

The suit further notes that this move by Google has pushed up prices for Android devices to the detriment of the consumer.

Steve Berman, a founding partner of Hagens Berman, commented: "It's clear that Google has not achieved this monopoly through offering a better search engine, but through its strategic, anti-competitive placement, and it doesn't take a forensic economist to see that this is evidence of market manipulation. Simply put, there is no lawful, pro-competitive reason for Google to condition licenses to pre-load popular Google apps like this."

The lawsuit states that if Android smartphone manufacturers were free to choose their own default search engine, rather than Google, the overall quality of Internet search would be improved.

The further argument is that Google search is likely to stagnate due to the suppression of its competition, as there is no drive for Google to improve its results – which there would be in the face of rivalry.

Berman added: "The more use an Internet or mobile search engine gets, the better it performs based on that use. Instead of finding a way to legitimately out-compete other Internet and mobile search providers, they [Google] instead decided to choke off competition through this cynical, anti-consumer scheme."

Google's response? Naturally the company wasn't having any of it, and said that both Google and Android can be used independently of each other.

According to Bloomberg, a spokesman for Mountain View commented: "Anyone can use Android without Google and anyone can use Google without Android. Since Android's introduction, greater competition in smartphones has given consumers more choices at lower prices."