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Google's expert in US antitrust trial defends billions paid to device makers

WASHINGTON : The multi-billion dollar payments that Alphabet’s Google makes to Apple, wireless carriers and others are normal competitive behavior and not an abuse of monopoly, an expert called by Google testified on Monday in a blockbuster antitrust trial.

In what is expected to be the last week of trial, Kevin Murphy, who teaches at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, argued Apple and others played Google and Microsoft, which has the Bing search engine, off against each other in order to win big payments from Google.

The government, which has filed four major antitrust lawsuits against three Big Tech companies since 2020, has accused Google of paying billions – $26.3 billion in 2021 – to ensure that its search is the default on smartphones and browsers and to keep its market share in the stratosphere. It alleges the payments are an abuse of monopoly.

“The payments that Google makes reflect that competition,” he said.

Murphy also argued that the payments to device makers and others were often passed through to users in the form of a cheaper phone or better data plan.

Further, Murphy argued that while Microsoft had virtually all the preinstalled browser defaults in early 2010s, its Bing search engine got just 15 per cent of search queries.

He said that there was “some truth” to the argument that changing defaults on devices might be complex for some but those same people often get around that difficulty by switching to a different browser or another workaround.

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