(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, along with attorneys general from 47 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have announced a multistate investigation of tech giant Google’s business practices to determine whether those practices violate state and federal antitrust laws.
The investigation will center on Google’s overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers. Google reported $136.2 billion in revenue for 2018. About 85% of that revenue ($116 billion) came from advertising.
“Antitrust has always been about the concentrated power to dominate the market and society. Money is the traditional tool to gain that monopoly power,” Yost said. “Data is the new money.”
Earlier this week, the Texas Attorney General’s Office issued a civil investigative demand (CID) to Google. A civil investigative demand is a request for records and information. Investigating states have submitted interrogatories, requested internal Google documents, and will be deposing Google employees and former employees. For the past several months, the investigating states have been working together to discuss issues of concern, outline theories of harm, and draft the CID.
While the preliminary focus of the investigation is on Google’s advertising marketplace, the states may expand its scope as more facts become known. The investigation also may explore emerging areas where Google is unfairly exerting its influence.
Multiple investigations of Google have found violations of law, from advertising for illegal drugs in the United States to now three antitrust actions brought by the European Commission. But none of these investigations have fully addressed the fundamental source of Google’s sustained market power and the ability to engage in serial and repeated business practices designed to artificially protect and maintain that power.
Alabama and California are the two states that chose not to join the investigation.