"Google sought to kill competition and has done so through an array of exclusionary tactics, including an unlawful agreement with Facebook, its largest potential competitive threat," the lawsuit said.

The Google logo is seen in Davos, Switzerland January 20, 2020.
The Google logo is seen in Davos, Switzerland January 20, 2020. (Reuters)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has announced a multistate lawsuit against Google, accusing the search giant of “anti-competitive conduct" in the online advertising industry.

Paxton said Google is using its “monopolistic power” to control pricing of online advertisements, fixing the market in its favour and eliminating competition. His office released a redacted copy of a federal lawsuit, but it was not immediately clear if it had been filed in court.

“This Goliath of a company is using its power to manipulate the market, destroy competition, and harm you, the consumer,” Paxton said in the video posted on Twitter.

"As internal Google documents reveal, Google sought to kill competition and has done so through an array of exclusionary tactics, including an unlawful agreement with Facebook, its largest potential competitive threat," the lawsuit said.

Google, which is based in Mountain View, California, called Paxton's claims "meritless" and said the price of online advertising has fallen over the last decade.

“These are the hallmarks of a highly competitive industry,” the company said in statement. "We will strongly defend ourselves from [Paxton's] baseless claims in court.”

Paxton led a bipartisan coalition of 50 US states and territories that announced in September 2019 they were investigating Google’s business practices, citing “potential monopolistic behaviour.”

Now Paxton is bringing the suit along other Republican attorneys general from Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah, according to the complaint released by Paxton's office.

The complaint targets the heart of Google’s business – the digital ads that generate nearly all of its revenue, as well as all the money that its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., depends upon to help finance a range of far-flung technology projects.

READ MORE: California asks to join US govt lawsuit against Google

Ad sales soar up

As more marketers have increased their spending online, those digital ads have turned Google into a moneymaking machine.

Through the first nine months of this year, Google’s ad sales totalled nearly $101 billion, accounting for 86 percent of its total revenue.

And now Texas and other states contend Google intends to use its alleged stranglehold on digital ads to choke off other avenues of potential competition and innovation.

“Google has an appetite for total dominance, and its latest ambition is to transform the free and open architecture of the internet,” the suit alleges.

In the “ad tech” marketplace that brings together Google and a huge universe of online advertisers and publishers, the company controls access to the advertisers that put ads on its dominant search platform.

Google also runs the auction process for advertisers to get ads onto a publisher’s site. Nine of Google’s products in search, video, mobile, email, mapping and other areas are estimated to have over a billion users each, providing the company a trove of users’ data that it can deploy in the advertising process.

Google officials say the company shares the majority of its “ad tech” revenue with publishers, such as newspaper websites. An official recently rejected even the assertion that Google is dominant, saying that market dominance suggests abuse, which is foreign to the company.

Paxton accused of many crimes

Paxton's move comes after the US Justice Department sued Google in October for abusing its dominance in online search and advertising – the government’s most significant attempt to buttress competition since its historic case against Microsoft two decades ago.

Separately, the FBI is investigating whether Paxton, a close ally of President Donald Trump, broke the law in using his office to help a wealthy donor who is also under federal investigation. This fall, eight of the attorney general’s top deputies accused him of bribery, abuse of office and other crimes in the service of an Austin real estate developer who employs a woman with whom Paxton is said to have had an extramarital affair.

All eight of Paxton's accusers have since been fired or resigned, including the deputy attorney general who had been leading the office's probe of Google. The complaint released by Paxton's office list attorneys with private firms in Houston, Chicago and Washington, DC, as the lead lawyers on the case.

Paxton announced the lawsuit the week after the US Supreme Court rejected his legal push to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, a case that prompted widespread speculation that the attorney general is angling for a preemptive pardon from Trump.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies