UK Launches Second Probe of Google Ad Practices

Google regulators

The U.K.’s antitrust watchdog said Thursday (May 26) that it has launched a new investigation into Google’s advertising technology practices, the second in as many months.

According to the Competition and Market Authority (CMA), the probe will examine whether Google abused its role as the largest service provider in U.K.’s $2.3 billion (1.8 billion pounds) online ad industry.

The CMA said in a Thursday (May 26) press release the investigation will focus on demand-side platforms (DSPs), which let advertisers and media agencies buy publishers’ advertising inventory, and ad exchanges, which offer technology to automate inventory sales.

It will also look at publisher ad servers, which manage the publisher’s inventory and decide which ad to show, based on the bids from different exchanges and/or direct deals between publishers and advertisers.

Read more: UK, EU Launch Parallel Antitrust Probes Into Google-Meta Ad Deal

“The CMA is assessing whether Google’s practices in these parts of the ad tech stack may distort competition,” the authority said. “These include whether Google limited the interoperability of its ad exchange with third-party publisher ad servers and/or contractually tied these services together, making it more difficult for rival ad servers to compete.”

In addition, the authority said it is concerned Google used its publisher ad server and its DSPs to illegally favor its own ad exchange services while excluding the services of rivals.

“We’re worried that Google may be using its position in ad tech to favor its own services to the detriment of its rivals, of its customers, and ultimately of consumers,” said Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive. “This would be bad for the millions of people who enjoy access to a wealth of free information online every day.”

Google has defended its ad practices as helping websites fund their content, and said it will cooperate with the CMA’s investigation.

See also: Google Asks Texas Court To Transfer Multi-State AG Lawsuit To California

This investigation comes two months after the CMA and the EU’s European Commission launched parallel investigation’s into whether Jedi Blue — the advertising agreement between Google and Facebook — hindered competition for online display ads.

The agreement, forged in 2018, came to light in 2020 during a Texas-led lawsuit in the U.S. brought by 10 state attorneys general. Jedi Blue gives Facebook advantages while guaranteeing Google ad space auctions and positions if Facebook agreed to spend a certain amount on display ads.