Company’s control of online ads, search traffic targeted
FRANKFORT, KY. (Sept. 9, 2019) – Attorney General Andy Beshear today announced that Kentucky has joined 49 states in a bipartisan investigation of tech giant Google’s business practices and whether they meet the standards established under state and federal antitrust laws.
The multistate coalition announced plans to investigate Google’s overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers.
Legal experts from each state will work in cooperation with Federal authorities to assess competitive conditions for online services and ensure that Americans have access to free digital markets in which companies compete on the merits.
“While we all know that the internet is central to our work, home and family lives, through this investigation, we are looking deeper into the economics that make the internet work and make sure Kentuckians’ privacy and online freedoms have not been undermined,” Beshear said. “Kentucky families deserve to know whether Google’s ‘powerhouse’ status has been achieved and maintained through business practices designed to thwart competition and prevent new alternatives from existing – and we’re going to find out.”
Beshear said the coalition intends to follow closely the facts discovered in this case and proceed as necessary.
Past investigations of Google uncovered violations ranging from advertising illegal drugs in the United States to now three antitrust actions brought by the European Commission. None of these previous investigations, however, fully addresses the source of Google’s sustained market power and its ability to engage in serial and repeated business practices intended to protect and maintain that power.
Beshear’s office has authority to investigate antitrust, Medicaid fraud and Kentucky Consumer Protection Act violations in order to protect Kentuckians.
On many fronts, Beshear has fought to hold major corporations accountable when they put profits ahead of Kentucky families.
Beshear’s has nine ongoing lawsuits against major opioid manufacturers and distributors for allegedly flooding Kentucky communities with addictive prescription drugs.
To recover ill-gotten gains from 23 generic drug manufacturers that conspired to skyrocket the prices of more than 100 prescription drugs, including drugs to treat diabetes, epilepsy and cancer Beshear joined a multistate lawsuit. He has separately sued Eli Lilly, Sanofi-Aventis and Novo Nordisk, the manufacturers who control 96% of the world’s insulin market and are accused of increasing the prices of their analog insulin products at least 10 times, while the costs to make insulin have stayed low, usually less than $7.00 per vial.
Over the past three and a half years, Beshear has also secured millions in restitution for the state and for Kentuckians.
In July, Beshear announced that a coalition of 50 attorneys general, reached a settlement with Equifax as the result of an investigation into a massive 2017 data breach that exposed the data of 56 percent of American adults. The settlement includes a Consumer Restitution Fund of up to $425 million and a $175 million payment to the states as well as injunctive relief.
Beshear also recently announced the settlement of a 12-year-old lawsuit against Marathon Petroleum Company (MPC) and Speedway LLC over alleged gasoline price gouging for $22,500,000.
The settlement resolves claims that Ohio-based MPC and Speedway violated Kentucky’s Consumer Protection Act by engaging in price gouging in the wholesale and retail sale of gasoline in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and that MPC engaged in wholesale price gouging following a 2011 flood event.
To date, settlements and civil litigation from Beshear’s consumer protection efforts have resulted in over $29 million to the Commonwealth’s general fund. These actions have yielded restitution that could exceed more than $97 million, representing amounts paid to consumers or amounts Kentuckians are eligible to receive, and the value of credits, student loan debt relief and warranty extensions.