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Google’s Mobile Search Monopoly Under Fire in New Lawsuit

by Jacob Kleinman | May 2, 2014May 2, 2014 12:30 pm PST

Google Nexus 5-Google Now Voice Prompt

Google controls roughly 87-percent of the market for mobile Internet search, but a new lawsuit claims the company may have pressured smartphone makers and even harmed consumers in its quest for dominance. The suit, filed by the same lawyer who took Apple to court for e-book price fixing, claims Google forced Samsung, HTC and other OEMs into prominently featuring its search engine with secret Mobile Application Distribution Agreements (MADAs).

According to the lawsuit, Google offers Android phone-makers access to popular services like Google Play and YouTube in exchange for loading their devices with Google Phone-top Search, the semi-transparent search bar prominently displayed on most Android homescreens. Other apps bundled in with an MADA reportedly include Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, YouTube, Google Maps for Mobile, Google Street View, Contact Sync, Google Voice Search and Network Location Provider.

The lawsuit also offers several other examples of Google’s push toward its search monopoly, including paying “hundreds of millions if not billions” to be the default search engine on Apple devices. The search giant apparently even bought and directed all traffic to its own site to keep people from using rival anonymous search engine DuckDuckGo.

To win in court, Google’s opponents will need to prove the company not only holds a monopoly but uses it to hurt consumers. The lawsuit argues that by blocking phone-makers from striking deals with competing search providers, Google is stopping manufacturers from passing those savings on to their customers. It’s unclear whether this claim will hold up in court, but it should be interesting see what else we learn about Google while this lawsuit plays out.

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Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...