EU launches new Google antitrust investigation
LONDON (AP) – European Union regulators have launched a new antitrust investigation into Google, this time to find out whether the US tech giant is stifling competition in digital advertising technology.
The European Commission said on Tuesday it had opened a formal investigation into whether Google had violated the bloc’s competition rules by favoring its own online display advertising technology services to the detriment of publishers, advertisers and technology services. competitor advertising.
The survey highlights European concerns about Google’s dominance in the online advertising industry and whether it is exploiting its data advantage to solidify its position in the display advertising market, which the EU estimates at 20 billion euros ($ 24 billion) per year.
Online display ads are the banners and text that appear on websites such as newspaper home pages and are personalized based on a user’s browsing history. Search ads, on the other hand, appear alongside search engine results and are based on keywords that users are searching for.
The commission, the EU’s executive body and the bloc’s main antitrust law enforcement official, is examining in particular whether Google is distorting competition by restricting third-party access to user data for advertising purposes on websites. websites and applications.
Google said competition in online ads has made them more affordable and relevant, reduced costs, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers.
“Thousands of European businesses use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every day,” Google said in a statement. “They choose them because they are competitive and efficient. We will continue to engage constructively with the European Commission to answer their questions and demonstrate the benefits of our products to European businesses and consumers.
The investigation signals a renewed effort by Margrethe Vestager, chief competition officer and European Commission’s executive vice president for digital, to harness Google’s market power. It has already fined Google a total of 8.2 billion euros (now $ 9.7 billion) in three separate antitrust cases. However, some criticized that the investigations took too long and that the fines were not very dissuasive because the company could easily afford them.
“Online advertising services are at the heart of how Google and publishers monetize their online services,” Vestager said. Google collects data to be used for targeted advertising while also selling ad space and acts as an intermediary between online advertisers and publishers, she said.
“We are concerned that Google has made it more difficult for competing online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad technology stack,” Vestager said.
The European Commission said it was investigating the ways Google is using technology to negotiate sales of display ads between online advertisers and publishers.
On the one hand, officials are reviewing the requirements for using Google’s internal ad buying platforms to buy display ads on YouTube, while competing services are potentially limited in how they can. serve ads on the video sharing site. They also examine whether Google’s different advertising platforms are promoting each other.
Another area the committee is examining is the restrictions Google places on competing advertisers, publishers and ad brokers to access user identity and behavior data to which Google’s own ad services have access. This data can be used to tailor online advertisements to individual web users.
Google’s plans to phase out third-party browser “cookies” on Chrome and advertising identifying tags on Android devices for users who opt out of personalized advertising, as part of the company’s plan to strengthen privacy measures, are also under the microscope. The committee is examining how these plans will affect the digital advertising markets.
EU regulators have the power to impose penalties of up to 10% of a company’s annual turnover. But it’s a small price to pay for wealthy tech companies like Google, which made $ 17.9 billion in profit in its most recent quarter, and the commission is turning to methods other than fines that make the headlines.
Vestager has started to use “interim measures” as a quick way to stop anti-competitive behavior while investigations are ongoing. She is also playing a leading role in updating the EU’s digital rulebook with measures to curb tech giants and prevent them from grabbing digital markets in the first place.
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