In a dramatic twist, Google finds itself entangled in yet another legal battle, this time on British shores. A new lawsuit filed in Britain accuses the tech behemoth of stifling competition in the search engine market and driving up prices throughout the UK economy.
The claim, submitted to the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal, seeks a staggering £7 billion ($8.7 billion) in damages, representing practically every consumer in the nation.
The crux of the lawsuit revolves around Google’s alleged violations of competition law, primarily its tactics to eliminate mobile search competition and exploit its market dominance to inflate advertising costs, which are then transferred to consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and services.
Nikki Stopford, a prominent consumer rights advocate and the representative for the class action, remarked, “It’s a clear breach of competition law, for which consumers are paying the price. Google has been warned about its behavior by competition regulators repeatedly but has taken no meaningful action to stop the abuse. This action aims to make the company accountable for its repeated lawbreaking and get consumers back the money they’re owed.”
The lawsuit further claims that Google abused its dominant position by tying its Search with other apps and services, mandating smartphone manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google Chrome browser apps in exchange for access to the Google Play app store.
It also alleges that Google paid Apple to ensure Google remained the default search engine on Safari browsers in Apple devices like iPhones.
Consumer rights group Consumer Voice asserts that the lawsuit represents 65 million UK consumers who could potentially be owed approximately £100 each in compensation if the legal action proves successful.
In response, a Google spokesperson labeled the case as “speculative and opportunistic” and vowed to vigorously contest it. “People use Google because it is helpful. We only make money if ads are useful and relevant, as indicated by clicks –- at a price that is set by a real-time auction,” Google stated, emphasizing the role of advertising in facilitating the discovery of businesses and products.
This lawsuit adds to the growing list of legal woes for Google, which has faced previous litigation seeking billions in compensation for publishers over lost advertising revenue.
Moreover, Google and other tech giants have been under the scrutiny of regulators in the US, UK, and EU, as authorities intensify efforts to curtail their business practices.
In Britain, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently investigating suspected anti-competitive conduct by Google related to its ad tech practices.
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