The European Commission has opened an antitrust investigation on Google for advertising.
The organization says it will check whether Google favors its own online display advertising technology over competing advertisers and publishers.
And it will examine whether Google “distorts competition by restricting third-party access to user data for advertising purposes on websites and apps while reserving that data for its own use.”
This is the clearest sign to date that Google is now seen as a utility in everyday life, not an optional service used in a sea of competition. Google has over 90 pc of online search usage in Europe.
The Commission fined Google over € 7 billion in three separate investigations between 2015 and 2018.
“Online advertising services are at the heart of how Google and publishers monetize their online services,” said Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, responsible for competition policy at the European Commission.
“Google collects data to be used for targeted advertising purposes, sells advertising space and also acts as an online advertising intermediary. Thus, Google is present at almost every level of the supply chain for online display advertising. We’re concerned that Google has made it harder for competing online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad technology stack. “
Ms Vestager said the Commission will also review Google’s policies on user tracking to ensure they comply with fair competition.
“A level playing field is essential for everyone in the supply chain,” she said. “Fair competition is important, both for advertisers to reach consumers on publisher sites and for publishers to sell their space to advertisers, to generate revenue and funding for the content.”
Google said it “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. Thousands of European businesses use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every day. They choose them because they are competitive and efficient.
In 2019, display advertising spending in the EU was estimated at around € 20 billion, the Commission said.
The Commission’s investigation will focus on display advertising for which Google offers a number of services to both advertisers and publishers.
The Commission indicates that the investigation will focus on the obligation to use Google services, such as Display & Video 360 and Google Ads to buy online display ads on YouTube. It will also examine the requirement to use Google Ad Manager to serve online advertisements on YouTube, as well as the “potential restrictions” imposed by Google on how competing services of Google Ad Manager can serve online advertisements on YouTube. .
And he said he would review Google’s restrictions on advertisers and publishers to access user identity or behavior data that is available to Google’s own advertising services, including Doubleclick.
The Commission is also targeting the recently announced system change by Google regarding cookies and the online advertising metrics calculator, in particular its plans to ban the placement of third-party ‘cookies’ on Chrome and replace them with a set of tools. “Privacy sandbox”. Google’s move, while cautiously received by privacy advocates, has been controversial in the advertising industry because it threatens their ability to track users across the web.