Google Paid $26.3 Billion to Be Default Search Engine on Mobile Phones and Web Browsers in 2021: Antitrust Trial Reveals

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Google Paid $26.3 Billion to Be Default Search Engine on Mobile Phones and Web Browsers in 2021

According to a slide presented in a federal antitrust trial against Google, the company paid $26.3 billion to secure its position as the default search engine on mobile phones and web browsers in 2021. This payment is part of the agreements Google has with various partners, including Apple, to ensure that its search engine is the default option on their products. The U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general argue that Google has maintained its monopoly power in general search by leveraging its dominance to exclude competitors from key distribution channels, such as Apple’s Safari web browser.

The $26.3 billion figure represents the total payments made to multiple companies, but it is likely that Apple receives the largest share. Analysts estimate that Google could pay Apple up to $19 billion this year for the default placement on Apple devices. The DOJ complaint states that Google pays billions of dollars each year to distributors and partners to secure default status for its search engine and prevent these partners from working with Google’s competitors.

Google defends itself by stating that users have the option to change their default search engine with a few clicks.

According to the slide presented in court, Google’s search division generated over $146 billion in revenue in 2021, with traffic acquisition costs exceeding $26 billion. The slide also shows data from 2014, when the division had revenue of approximately $47 billion and paid around $7.1 billion for default status. This indicates a significant increase in revenue and TAC costs for the search division over the years.

While Google reports its overall TAC, which includes payments to network partners for ads on their platforms, the slide specifically refers to the portion of TAC related to Search+ revenue. Google’s distribution partners include browser providers, mobile carriers, original equipment manufacturers, and software developers.

Google and Apple declined to comment on the matter.

Watch: How US Antitrust Law Works and Its Implications for Big Tech

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