AN ONLINE ADVERTISING OUTFIT is suing Google over what it claims are anticompetitive practices that, ultimately, drove it out of business.
Inform, which was acquired by Bright Mountain Media earlier this year, claims that it was generating revenues of more than $100m from streaming and pop-up videos between 2014 and 2016.
"Google's pattern of anticompetitive practices has thwarted competition," the lawsuit continues, "and excluded Inform and other Google competitors from the relevant markets. The result has been to eviscerate competition in multiple markets, harm consumers, degrade consumer choice and consumer privacy, and stifle innovation."
It goes on to accuse Google of engaging in "blatant and rampant coercive and anticompetitive activities". These accusations include the claim that:
- Google has coerced both consumers and advertisers into using its products;
- It illegally undermined rivals' products and services;
- Google tied in its products, services and applications to the Android operating system;
- Entered exclusionary agreements restricting the right of companies to provide competing products or services;
- "Tortiously interfering with competitors' contracts and business relationships"; and,
- "Maliciously and artificially imposing restrictions on how ads can be supported and accepted for display, while exempting or whitelisting its own platforms from these rules".
In addition, it claims that Google has "improperly" influenced and infiltrated government agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the United States Patent and Trademark Office to further its interests, and actively sought monopoly power by acquiring ad-tech companies and patent portfolios.
The lawsuit asserts that Google has violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act.
One item of evidence cited in the lawsuit includes Google's role in killing off Adobe Flash, which it claims undermined its business by forcing advertisers to migrate to the Google advertising network.
"In September 2014, Google began offering Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tools for the Google Display Network17 and DoubleClick Campaign Manager that would create a backup HTML5 video advertisement to run when Flash was disabled or otherwise not supported," the lawsuit argues.
More seriously, perhaps, the lawsuit provides some evidence that Google sales staff have leveraged access to Google ad server information in order to poach customers.
"On or about April 4, 2016, the Google team contacted one of Inform's customers, sending them a screenshot to give them a ‘heads up' when Inform's floating video player, with that client's advertisement, appeared next to content that Google misleadingly characterized as objectionable.
"Google obtained information about Inform's customer through Inform's forced usage of the Google ad server, took this information to Inform's customer and used it in an attempt to convince Inform's customer that Google offered superior services… This was not an isolated occurrence."
It also alleges "Google's purposeful trolling of competitors' services" and "an unethical effort to wrongly discredit Google's competitors", "monopolistic leveraging" and outright anticompetitive behaviour "through a wide range of predatory and exclusionary conduct".
Google has yet to respond to the lawsuit. µ
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