Google accused of using secret deals to force an illegal search monopoly

A lawsuit filed Thursday accuses Google of strong-arming device manufacturers into making its search engine the default on Android devices, driving up the cost of those devices and hurting consumers. The consumer class-action complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges Google does that by making secret agreements with manufacturers that also require applications such as YouTube and Google Play store to occupy prime real estate on the devices’ screens.

Google requires Samsung, HTC and other mobile device makers that use the Android operating system to reserve prime screen real estate for the search giant’s own applications, according to a new class action complaint filed this week in California. The lawsuit, filed by the same lawyer who recently won a high profile price-fixing case against Apple and book publishers, claims Google harms consumers by forcing the device makers to sign secret deals known as “MADA’s” — for Mobile Application Distribution Agreements — in order to perpetuate a search engine monopoly. This Android arrangement has allegedly helped Google achieve an 87 percent market share in the mobile search market (while Yahoo has under 8 percent), and in turn caused consumers to overpay for Android devices. The lawsuit claims this amounts to a violation of the Sherman Act and other antitrust laws, and seeks unspecified damages on behalf of everyone in the U.S. who owns an Android device.

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