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CMA Probes Google & Facebook Over Ad Tech

 |  March 11, 2022

The UK’s CMA is taking a closer look at Google and Meta’s conduct over concerns that they hampered competition in markets for online display advertising services.

CMA Chief Executive said “We will not shy away from scrutinising the behaviour of big tech firms while we await powers for the Digital Markets Unit.”

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is focusing on whether the companies restricted or prevented the uptake of header bidding services and whether Google also affected the ability of other firms to compete with its products in this area.

Header bidding is a service which allows sellers, such as news publishers, to offer their online advertising space to multiple buyers at the same time, rather than receiving offers one by one. As a result, buyers – or advertisers – compete against each other for ad space and publishers can compare bids from multiple buyers simultaneously. This competition between buyers can make auctions more competitive.

As part of its investigation, the CMA will consider whether an agreement between Google and Meta (previously Facebook) – which Google internally codenamed “Jedi Blue” – broke the law. This secret pact was the focus of an investigation in the United States looking into the claim that Google executives “induced” senior Facebook staff to agree to a plan to undermine competition in digital advertising.

The CMA is also scrutinising Google’s conduct in relation to header bidding services more widely to see if the firm abused a dominant position and gained an unfair advantage over competitors trying to provide a similar service.