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Iowa Joins 38-State Lawsuit Against Google

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller
John Pemble
IPR file
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

Iowa is joining a group of 38 states including Nebraska and Colorado that are filing a lawsuit against Google over alleged uncompetitive practices.

A bipartisan group of attorneys general is accusing the tech giant of abusing monopolies in search and digital advertising to control consumer data and block competitors from providing search services on connected devices such as smart speakers.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller called it the largest antitrust case since another he was part of in the 1990s against Microsoft. He said some claim it was the Microsoft lawsuit that gave rise to Google.

“Of course, there’s some irony if we produced Google and now Google is the monolith that we have to sue,” Miller said. “But the point is that when there is this kind of power, it’s so important for us to stand up and bring a case and litigate it and let a judge decide and also let Google know that we’re really watching.”

In a conference call, Miller and the other attorneys general leading the case explained that their suit differs from a separate lawsuit led by Texas. They said their case emphasizes the contracts Google uses to block rivals from offering services on new devices, the control the company demonstrates over consumer search data, and the ways Google suppresses search results from niche search engines.

“They just don’t want to have to let some of these specialty search companies be openly available, so therefore they suppress and they discriminate against their viewability,” said Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, comparing it to a retail store refusing to stock a competing product. “They’re not giving them fair shelf space.”

The coalition is asking a federal court to enforce fair competition in search advertising and to give consumers more control over their data histories. Miller said the case is part of a larger effort to reign in Google’s influence.

“Those that are concerned about Google’s power shouldn’t put all their eggs in this basket by any means,” Miller said. “Congress is looking at this and they should.”

The states plan to combine their complaint with a federal case announced by the Department of Justice in October. Fourteen states have already signed onto the Justice Department's lawsuit.