In July, the US Justice Department announced a broad review of Big Tech and whether companies are limiting competition. Alphabet today revealed that it received a “a civil investigative demand from the DOJ” related to antitrust.
Reports in late May revealed that an investigation was imminent, and that preparations have been under way for weeks. An agreement with the Federal Trade Commission brings Alphabet under the DOJ’s purview, while the other regulatory agency gets oversight of Amazon and Facebook.
In an SEC filing published today, Alphabet said it received a “civil investigative demand” on August 30 from the Department of Justice. The government has specifically asked for information about past antitrust investigations. Google’s parent company also expects an inquiry from state attorneys general that could be announced next week.
On August 30, 2019, Alphabet received a civil investigative demand from the DOJ requesting information and documents relating to our prior antitrust investigations in the United States and elsewhere. We expect to receive in the future similar investigative demands from state attorneys general. We continue to cooperate with the DOJ, federal and state regulators in the United States, and other regulators around the world.
This follows a 2013 FTC investigation that resulted in no action, but Google did implement voluntary changes related to patents and advertising. It included a look into whether Google was using its dominant position to demote competitors in results, or “search bias.”
The US is finally increasing regulatory scrutiny after three antitrust investigations in Europe that culminated over the past two years: $2.7 billion (Shopping), $5 billion (Android), and $1.69 billion (AdSense) In response to the mobile OS ruling, Google introduced a new licensing model that includes fees for OEMs in Europe to get certain apps.
In a public blog, Google senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker acknowledged the development, while bringing up the company’s US contributions and track record of innovation:
Things that were science fiction a few years ago are now free for everyone — translating any language instantaneously, learning about objects by pointing your phone, getting an answer to pretty much any question you might have.