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EU investigates Google’s conduct in digital ad tech sector

The commission is looking in particular at whether Google is distorting competition by restricting access by third parties to user data for ad purposes on websites and apps.

June 22, 2021  by Associated Press

European Union regulators have launched a fresh antitrust investigation of Google, this time over whether the U.S. tech giant is stifling competition in digital advertising technology.

The European Commission said on June 22 that it has opened a formal investigation into whether Google violated the bloc’s competition rules by favoring its own online display advertising technology services at the expense of rival publishers, advertisers and advertising technology services.

The investigation underscores European concerns about Google’s dominance in the online advertising industry and whether it’s exploiting its data advantage to cement its position in the display ad market, which the EU estimates is worth 20 billion euros ($24 billion) annually.

Online display ads are the banners and text that show up on websites such as newspaper home pages and are personalized based on an internet user’s browsing history. Search ads, in contrast, appear alongside search engine results and are based on keywords that users are looking for.

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The commission, the EU’s executive arm and the bloc’s top antitrust enforcer, is looking in particular at whether Google is distorting competition by restricting access by third parties to user data for ad purposes on websites and apps.

Google said competition in online ads has made them more affordable and relevant, cut fees and and expanded options for publishers and advertisers.

“Thousands of European businesses use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every single day,” Google said in a prepared statement. “They choose them because they’re competitive and effective. 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, the EU commission’s competition chief and executive vice president for digital, to rein in Google’s market power. She has already slapped Google with a total of 8.2 billion euros (now $9.7 billion) worth of fines in three separate antitrust cases. There was criticism, however, that the investigations took too long and the fines were not much of a deterrent because the company could easily afford them.


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