Minnesota’s Antitrust Case Against Google Goes Further

(Yahoo Finance)

Minnesota’s attorney general Keith Ellison, one 38 U.S. state attorneys general who signed onto an antitrust lawsuit filed against Google (GOOG, GOOGL) on Thursday, said the case reaches further into Google’s allegedly illegal business practices than two other recent suits filed against the tech giant.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, makes similar antitrust claims against the tech giant in the two prior suits — one filed in the same district court by the Justice Department along with 11 attorneys general, and another filed by 48 attorneys general in the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas — yet also targets Google’s Search Ad 360 business, a search management platform for agencies and marketers.

“Our particular complaint goes further,” Ellison said of the latest claims, in that they zero in on Search Ad 360, which gives online advertisers real-time information about the performance of their ads.

The complaint accuses Google of using the tool to deprive competitors like Microsoft’s (MSFT) Bing of ad dollars by favoring advertising on its own platform, despite pledging to operate SA360 “in a neutral manner.”

Google says the product — which can be programmed to automatically bid in the advertising space —works across multiple engines and media channels. However, Ellison described a different reality, where advertisers managing their online campaigns across multiple search engines struggle to get a fair deal.

“Google said that this product would be neutral, and not steer advertisers toward certain places, but the truth is that it does,” Ellison told Yahoo Finance Live. “Instead it has SA360 steer advertisers toward Google platforms…and it’s deliberately made so SA360 doesn’t work as well with other search engines. We believe that’s anti-competitive and it’s unfair and something that we think they have to answer for.”

In addition to claims that Google is violating the law with AS360, the 38 state attorneys general accuse Google of two additional anti-competitive practices. The attorneys allege Google is using exclusionary contracts with Apple (AAPL) and other companies to make Google the default search engine on mobile devices. Google is also accused of denying specialized search sites like Expedia (EXPE), Angie’s List, and Yelp (YELP) of “prime real estate” on its search results page.

On Thursday, Google pushed back on allegations that it’s using its general search engine to exclude others from the market. In an online publication, the company’s Director of Economic Policy, Adam Cohen, argued that redesigning “Search” would harm American consumers and businesses.

Asked whether the company’s representation that 80% of searches result in no advertisement-containing results, Ellison said the fact did not change his position that Search is an illegal monopoly.

“Our allegations are accurate, they’re well researched and we will prove them in court,” Ellison said.