30 October 2023

CEO Pichai defends paying Apple and others to make Google default search engine

30 October 2023

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai has given evidence in the biggest US antitrust case in a quarter of a century, defending his company’s practice of paying Apple and other tech companies to make Google the default search engine on their devices.

Mr Pichai said the intent was to make the user experience “seamless and easy”.

The US Department of Justice contends that Google – a company whose very name is synonymous with scouring the internet – pays off tech companies to lock out rival search engines to smother competition and innovation.

The payments came to more than 26 billion dollars (£21.4 billion) in 2021, according to court documents the government entered into the record last week.

Google counters that it dominates the market because its search engine is better than the competition.

Mr Pichai, the star witness in Google’s defence, said on Monday that Google’s payments to phone manufacturers and wireless phone companies were partly meant to nudge them into making costly security upgrades and other improvements to their devices, not just to ensure Google was the first search engine users encounter when they open their smartphones or computers.

Google makes money when users click on advertisements that pop up in its searches and shares the revenue with Apple and other companies that make Google their default search engine.

The antitrust case, the biggest since the Justice Department went after Microsoft and its dominance of internet browsers 25 years ago, was filed in 2020 during the Trump administration.

The trial began on September 12 in US District Court in Washington DC.

US District Judge Amit Mehta is unlikely to issue a ruling until early next year.

If he decides Google broke the law, another trial will determine how to rein in its market power.

The company, based in Mountain View, California, could be stopped from paying Apple and other companies to make Google the default search engine.

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