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Google hit with amended antitrust complaint from states

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Texas is spearheading an updated legal challenge mounted by several US states seeking to prove that Google is abusing its dominant position in the digital ad market to further violate antitrust legislation.

The lawsuit, filed in New York and to be considered by a federal court, alleges that the tech giant is behaving in monopolistic and coercive ways in a bid to cement its dominance in online advertising, and prevent competition from getting a foot in the door.

We obtained a copy of the updated complaint for you here.

The updated filing cites Google’s secret program, “Project Bernanke,” first introduced in 2013 and having since undergone several changes, reportedly set up with the goal of helping Google’s clients – paying advertisers – win bids in the online ad market. Meanwhile, websites selling ad space – i.e., publishers – were kept in the dark about the existence of Project Bernanke.

The lawsuit alleges that this resulted in Google gaining unfair advantage by having to spend less money on winning bids, and sidelining competitor’s ad buying tools.

The news of the existence of the program only came to light because Google’s legal team made a blunder while responding to the Texas-led legal action by publishing unredacted documents that have since been sealed. But Google has not denied the existence of the program – although the company claims that it did not break any rules by using data it had exclusive access to, to help clients.

The update to the lawsuit comes as Google is under fire on antitrust grounds, facing a number of legal challenges in the US, the one launched by the Justice Department being among them.

And over in Europe, Google was just last week ordered by the Court of Justice of the European Union to pay the $2.8 billion fine imposed by the European Commission in 2017. The US giant had appealed against the ruling, denying that it was abusing the search market it dominates to stifle competition.

The court rejected the appeal, finding that the way search results are displayed in Google Search favors the company’s own comparison shopping service at the expense of rivals. Google argued that the very presence of merchant platforms meant there was competition in that particular market.

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