Countless travel brands have finally got what they have wanted for years: the U.S. Government has filed its long-expected antitrust suit against Google.
Google, it is claimed, has abused its dominant position in search and advertising to keep competition down.
So, how is the industry reacting so far? And what about Google itself?
Google, Kent Walker, senior vice president of global
Google Search has put the world’s information at the fingertips of over a billion people. Our engineers work to offer the best search engine possible, constantly improving and fine-tuning it. We think that’s why a wide cross-section of Americans value and often love our free products.
Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to, not because they're forced to, or because they can't find alternatives.
This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.
Let's talk specifics. The Department's complaint relies on dubious antitrust arguments to criticize our efforts to make Google Search easily available to people.
Yes, like countless other businesses, we pay to promote our services, just like a cereal brand might pay a supermarket to stock its products at the end of a row or on a shelf at eye level. For digital services, when you first buy a device, it has a kind of home screen “eye level shelf.” On mobile, that shelf is controlled by Apple, as well as companies like AT&T, Verizon, Samsung and LG. On desktop computers, that shelf space is overwhelmingly controlled by Microsoft.
So, we negotiate agreements with many of those companies for eye-level shelf space. But let's be clear—our competitors are readily available too, if you want to use them.
Our agreements with Apple and other device makers and carriers are no different from the agreements that many other companies have traditionally used to distribute software. Other search engines, including Microsoft’s Bing, compete with us for these agreements. And our agreements have passed repeated antitrust reviews.
Rod Cuthbert, founder, Viator, former CEO, Rome2rio and director, Veltra Corp.:
I remember the anti-trust case against Microsoft, and
I believe the history of that case will be a good guide here.
was not broken up, the intense scrutiny and dramatic change in public
perception of the company that came out of the process resulted in very real
changes within Microsoft, and in their relationship with the rest of the tech
world. I think that's what will happen here.
While up until now Google has been
cavalier in placing its own offerings first in search results, thus abusing its
monopoly power, sometime in the not too distant future it will start to ask itself
how well such actions are perceived by the world at large, including the
Justice Department and its end-users. I don't think that change will happen
overnight, but I suspect it's inevitable. Once Google has to fight for users on
even ground, it will lose its enthusiasm for competing with its advertising
That day can't come fast enough.
HomeToGo, Patrick Andrae, co-founder and CEO:
We welcome the decision of the U.S. Department of Justice to file its antitrust lawsuit against Google and to advocate for fair competition.
At HomeToGo, like many other travel companies, we have a certain reliance on Google to direct consumers to our website. We hope that the U.S. government will also investigate the preferential treatment of Google’s own products and restore a level playing field, ultimately leading to more innovation in the online travel ecosystem.
We look forward to seeing what happens in the U.S., as it could set an example for what is to come in Europe
Tripadvisor, Seth Kalvert, senior vice president,
general counsel and secretary:
The problem is well-documented: Google is leveraging its dominance in general search to divert unknowing consumers to its other businesses at the expense of competition.
Today’s announcement from the Department of Justice and State Attorneys General confirms that they are seeking to put an end to these anticompetitive tactics. Quite simply, the charges brought today are a win for consumers. They provide the framework for meaningful action to stop Google from leveraging its gatekeeper position to benefit its owned services and increase its profits at the expense of competition and consumers.
We are prepared to cooperate with U.S. competition authorities as they work to preserve the best of the internet - transparency, the wisdom of crowds, and vibrant competition that promotes the development of high-quality product and services.
Max Starkov, hospitality tech consultant and adjunct professor of hospitality technology at NYU Tisch Center of Hospitality:
Google directly contributes, in the form of organic referrals (SEO, AMPs, Schema, content marketing, etc.) and paid/performance marketing referrals (SEM, GDN, GHA, YouTube, Gmail, etc.) to over 50% of direct online room nights for most hoteliers.
This does not include OTA room nights, the bulk of which come as a result of the OTA performance marketing on Google to the tune of $11 billion a year. During the pandemic, Google has not only maintained but increased its search market share and in August 2020 Google controlled 87.3% market share in the U.S., 93.24% in Europe and 91.5% in Asia.
In the same time, Google has become a fully integrated advertising platform - an advertising ecosystem - where all advertising formats are intertwined and work in concert.
User engagements in the upper funnel (SEO, content marketing, YouTube TrueView, Gmail Ads, etc.) influences conversions in the lower funnel (Google Ads, Google Hotel Ads, Google Display Network, RLSA, Customer Match, etc.), and a campaign in one advertising format directly influences the results from all other formats.
So how do you dismantle the Google Empire? Spin off YouTube into a separate public company, this is the quickest way to diffuse the market monopoly of Google.
Peter Kern, CEO, Expedia Group, speaking at GeekWire Summit:
“I’m very pleased to see the government finally taking some action. Hopefully, it will create a fair marketplace for us, which is all we want. We have no axe to grind against Google, except that we don’t think the marketplace is equitable.”