By Brent Kendall and Valentina Pop 

Alphabet Inc.'s Google spent well more than a decade under the antitrust microscope in the U.S. and Europe before the Justice Department filed its lawsuit Tuesday. Here are some highlights:

December 2007: The Federal Trade Commission allows Google to buy online advertising firm DoubleClick, a crucial acquisition in boosting Google's power as an ad broker. A dissenting commissioner warns that the deal could substantially lessen competition in the internet advertising market. The European Union approves the deal a few months later.

May 2010: The FTC approves Google's acquisition of mobile-advertising firm AdMob, which expands Google's reach in the digital advertising ecosystem. The commission says the acquisition raised serious antitrust issues, but it says it believes Apple Inc. will preserve competition. That prediction proves incorrect, as Apple shuts its ad network several years later.

November 2010: The EU launches an antitrust investigation into allegations that Google abused its dominant position in online search, after receiving several complaints from the company's rivals and critics, including news publishers and specialized search engines such as Expedia and Tripadvisor. ( News Corp, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, eventually joins in.)

June 2011: The FTC begins investigating Google's search practices, including whether it favored its own products and services and unfairly harmed rivals. It is the first broad examination of the company's practices by U.S. domestic antitrust enforcers.

May 2012: European Commissioner for Competition Joaquín Almunia decides not to issue formal charges and starts negotiations with Google to alleviate grievances by companies that claim they were harmed by the search giant.

January 2013: The FTC closes its Google probe without bringing a case, saying the company both improved products for consumers and hobbled rivals. Google makes several voluntary commitments, including a promise not to misappropriate content from rivals' websites.

September 2014: The EU's Mr. Almunia says Google must improve its proposed concessions or face formal charges. A tentative agreement he and the company previously reached on changes in Google's practices collapses after a wave of criticism that the restrictions on Google were too weak.

November 2014: Margrethe Vestager takes over as EU competition commissioner and says she plans more aggressive antitrust enforcement.

April 2015: The EU files its first charges against Google, accusing the company of skewing search results to favor its shopping service. Ms. Vestager also opens an investigation into the company's conduct in connection with its Android mobile operating system.

April 2016: The EU files formal charges in the Android probe, alleging Google used its market power to strong-arm phone makers and telecommunications companies into favoring its search engine and browser on their devices.

July 2016: Google's AdSense business is hit with formal charges by the EU, which accuses Google of restricting websites from displaying search ads from competitors.

June 2017: The EU imposes a EUR2.4 billion fine, equivalent to $2.7 billion, and remedies on Google for giving an illegal advantage to its own comparison shopping service. Google appeals the decision at the EU General Court a few months later. (The appeal is pending.)

July 2018: The EU imposes a EUR4.3 billion ($5 billion) fine and remedies on Google for allegedly having used illegal practices to strengthen the dominance of its search engine on Android mobile devices. Google appeals. (The company's appeal hasn't been resolved.)

January 2019: During his Senate confirmation hearing to lead the U.S. Justice Department, William Barr signals he will take aim at Big Tech. "I don't think big is necessarily bad, but I think a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers," he says.

March 2019: The EU imposes a EUR1.49 billion ($1.7 billion) fine on Google for abusive practices in online advertising. The company appeals. (This appeal, too, is pending.)

June 2019: The Justice Department moves forward with an investigation of Google, following months of negotiations with the FTC to secure jurisdiction for the probe. A month later, the department announces it is opening a broader review of dominant online platforms.

September 2019: A group of 48 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, begin investigating Google, initially focusing on its digital advertising practices. Several state attorneys general announce the probe in front of the Supreme Court building.

October 2020: The Justice Department files an antitrust lawsuit against Google, alleging the company is engaging in anticompetitive conduct to preserve monopolies in online search and search advertising.

Write to Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com and Valentina Pop at valentina.pop@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 20, 2020 10:41 ET (14:41 GMT)

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