Law Street Media

Consumer Complaint Alleges Antitrust Conspiracy, Asks Court to Break Up Google and Apple

Apple's logo on a store window.

Bangkok, Thailand 21/12/2018 The logo of Apple brand in front ot First Apple store in Bangkok, Thailand.

More than two dozen individuals who use Google services have alleged that Google, Apple, and some of the companies’ current and former executives are party to an agreement ensuring that Apple would not compete with Google in the online search engine market. The complaint, which alleges violations of the Sherman Act and seeks damages and injunctive relief under the Clayton Act, says that although the plaintiffs do not know when the agreement was formed, they believe it started during the tenure of Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt, “and that it has continued in force” under leaders Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai.

Curiously, the lawsuit levels similar allegations as did another case filed in the Northern District of California several months ago. In that suit, where the plaintiff is also represented by the Alioto Law Firm and six other firms, motion to dismiss briefing is underway.

Last week’s filing specifies that Google has paid Apple billions to stay out of the online search business pursuant to the parties’ purported and illicit agreement. In addition, Apple allegedly agreed that Google would be the only search engine automatically included on all of Apple’s devices, handing Google “a substantial and unfair anticompetitive advantage over other search providers, actual and potential, including Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo, Bing, and others.”

The complaint says that the whole point of the agreement was to eliminate the potential of Apple entering the search engine market. It also alleges that both companies’ leaders made the agreement despite advice from legal counsel that doing so would violate the antitrust laws.

The filing states two Sherman Act claims, an agreement not to compete in the search business in violation of Section 1 and conspiracy to monopolize in violation of Section 2. The filing also pleads fraudulent concealment as a means of defending against any untimeliness defenses.

The complaint asks for several forms of relief, including “public injunctive relief prohibiting future unlawful acts for the benefit of the general public as a whole.” In addition, the filing says it is not enough that Google and Apple disgorge their illegally gleaned profits and payments, the court should, “for the benefit of the public as a whole, effect a forward-looking divestiture of the anticompetitive structures that Google and Apple abused to commit their violations.”

According to the plaintiffs, the court should divide both companies into separate and independent entities to re-establish competition in the online search market, just as the Supreme Court did in U.S. v. Standard Oil in 1911.

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