Class-action lawsuits against Google thrown out of court

Two antitrust class-action lawsuits related to Android handsets have been dismissed in a Californian court.


A federal judge has dismissed two class-action lawsuits levied against Google in relation to alleged anti-competitive practices in the mobility market.

Filed by two US consumers, as reported by The Register, both lawsuits accused the tech giant of hurting handset customers by forcing them to use Google-related apps by default on Android handsets. Reviewed in the US District Court in California, the lawsuits -- brought forward by Gary Feitelson and Daniel McKee from Kentucky and Iowa, both Android handset owners, allege that Google's licensing agreements for handset makers to use the free Android mobile operating system "stifles innovation and diminishes consumer choice" in the search market.

If a handset maker, such as Samsung or HTC, wishes to install Android on its devices -- together with popular apps customers tend to demand such as YouTube, Gmail and Google Play -- the tech giant requires companies to agree to a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA).

The agreement stipulates that Google must be made the default option for all "search access points" on a device over a set period of time rather than a rival service, such as Microsoft's Bing search engine.

The original case (.PDF) states:

"As Google well knows, consumers do not know how to switch, nor will they go to the trouble of switching the default search engine on their devices, so this practice is a highly effective means of ensuring that consumers will use Google search to conduct general Internet queries rather than one of its competitors' search products.

And Google badly wants default search engine status because it results in more paid search-related advertisements, which are the source of most of its billions and billions of dollars in annual profits."

The plaintiffs say that MADAs "quash competition for default search engine status before it even can begin," and without Google's allegedly anti-competitive agreements, their phones "would have cost less and had better search capabilities as the result of the competition that would have ensued."

However, US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman, who is overseeing the case, ruled Friday that the plaintiffs have not produced enough evidence to support the complaint that the tech giant's alleged anti-competitive behavior has resulted in a higher handset price for consumers. Within the ruling (.PDF), Freeman also said the complainants "have failed to allege that they have suffered "antitrust injury" in the same market as and sufficiently close to the alleged anticompetitive conduct to allow them to pursue private antitrust remedies against Defendant."

In addition, Freeman said:

"The Court agrees with Defendant [Google] that there are no facts alleged that would render these threatened injuries [loss of consumer choice and innovation] more concrete than hypothetical, as there are no facts alleged to indicate that Defendant's conduct has prevented consumers from freely choosing among search products or prevented competitors from innovating."

The plaintiffs have been granted three weeks to amend their complaints.

This is not the only lawsuit Google is currently facing. Last year, the California-based firm outlined a set of antitrust remedies to the European Commission in order to settle a case related to the firm's dominance of the search engine market and alleged preferential treatment of Google services in results.

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