Google Ad Business Accused of Breaking EU Antitrust Laws

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Google is once again facing allegations that its ad business constitutes a monopoly.

The European Commission (EC) on Wednesday (June 14) announced that a preliminary investigation suggests that the tech giant abused its dominance in the online advertising space by favoring its own advertising technology (or adtech).

“Our investigation has shown that Google may hold a dominant position on both ends of the adtech supply chain,” EC Executive Vice-President Margarethe Vestager said in a news conference after the charges were announced.

“There is nothing wrong with being dominant as such. What our investigation has shown though, is that Google appears to have abused its market position.”

In a statement provided to PYMNTS, Google Vice President of Global Ads Dan Taylor said the EC’s investigation focuses on a “narrow aspect” of Google’s ad business.

“Our advertising technology tools help websites and apps fund their content, and enable businesses of all sizes to effectively reach new customers,” Taylor said.

“Google remains committed to creating value for our publisher and advertiser partners in this highly competitive sector. We disagree with the EC’s view and will respond accordingly.”

The commission’s charges come a little less than six months after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Google, claiming the company had illegally seized control of the digital ad industry and calling for the company to be broken up.

“Having inserted itself into all aspects of the digital advertising marketplace, Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful means to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies,” the DOJ suit said.

The department is seeking a judge to order the divestiture of “at minimum,” the Google Ad Manager suite, including both Google’s publisher ad server, DFP, as well as AdX, the advertising exchange that is also at the center of the EC case.

The commission could require Google to take similar action, Vestager said, assuming the EC investigation determines Google violated antitrust rules.

“Should the Commission conclude that Google acted in an illegal manner, it might require Google to divest part of its services,” she said. “For instance, Google could divest its sell-side tools, DFP and AdX. By doing so, we would put an end to the conflicts of interest.”

Google has proposed splitting up its massive ad tech business to fend off DOJ court action, PYMNTS wrote last year.

“Google holds a strong position in most of the different parts of the ad-tech business, from the supply side to the demand side — and the marketplace where the orders from both sides are exchanged,” that report noted.