European publishers file EU antitrust complaint against Google’s ad technology

Deepak Gupta February 11, 2022
Updated 2022/02/11 at 2:53 PM

Google is facing more antitrust pressure in the EU over its advertising technology. Reuters reports the European Editors’ Council (EPC) presented a complaint against Google alleging that the company has an illegal “stranglehold” on ad technology and the press. The internet giant’s ad set is said to be “full of conflicts of interest” as it not only represents the buyer, seller and auction house, but allegedly exploits this control to profit at the expense of its customers.

Council President Christian Van Thillo saw the complaint as an incentive for the EU to act where it was reluctant. The move should make Google “really change” its behavior after years of “minor compromises” that have had no substantial impact, Van Thillo said. The EPC pointed to antitrust cases in several countries to support its case, including a lawsuit in several US states.

The EU launched its newest investigation into Google’s ad business in June 2021. It shares the EPC’s general concerns about potential abuse. However, it has not set a deadline for the investigation and has already fined Google three times for its ad practices. Antitrust hunts like these can take years to close, and reporting theoretically speeds up the process.

In a statement, Google argued that companies liked its ad technology but failed to address unfair competition issues. Publishers retain the “majority of revenue,” which amounts to “billions” of dollars, a representative said.

There is no certainty that the EPC’s complaint will lead the EU to demand significant changes to Google’s ad policies. However, it could increase pressure on Google to act, if only to minimize potential penalties.

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