Brussels launches antitrust investigation into Google’s digital advertising practices

The European Commission announced Tuesday that it has opened a new antitrust investigation against Google to determine if the US multinational is abusing its position when it comes to online digital advertising technologies.

Commission said the investigation will assess whether “Google violated EU competition rules by favoring its own online advertising technology services in the so-called ‘advertising technology supply chain’ to the detriment of competing ad technology service providers, advertisers and online publishers.”

It will focus on whether the company stifles competition by restricting third parties from accessing user data for promotional purposes on the website and apps while using the data itself.

“Online advertising services are at the heart of how Google and publishers monetize their online services. Google collects data for use in targeted advertising, sells ad space, and acts as an intermediary for online advertising.” – Margret Vestager, Executive Vice President of the Commission. This is stated in the message of the president responsible for competition.

“So Google is present at almost every level of the online display advertising supply chain. We are concerned that Google is making it harder for competing online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad technology stack,” she added.

Digital advertising spending in the EU in 2019 reached around €20 billion, according to the Commission.

A Google spokesperson told Euronews that “thousands of European companies use our advertising products to attract new customers and fund their websites every single day. 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,” they added.

Earlier this month, Google was fined €220 by the French competition watchdog for preferring its own services in online advertising. The company said at the time that it agreed with some of the review body’s recommendations and that it would make changes to its policy in the coming months.

Vestager has initiated numerous antitrust investigations against the tech giants for alleged abuse of dominance, imposing numerous fines on Google.

In March 2019, Brussels fined Google 1.49 billion euros for imposing restrictive contract clauses on third-party websites preventing Google competitors from placing their search ads on those websites.