google is charged Google on Wednesday used its dominance in online advertising to undercut rivals, breaching European Union antitrust law, the latest in a series of cases around the world targeting the heart of the internet giant’s business model.
The case, brought by the European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-nation bloc, is the fourth time Google has been accused of violating European antitrust law in recent years. In this case, the EU has accused Google of abusing its control over the market for buying and selling online ads.
The Justice Department filed similar charges against Google in January, accusing the company of illegally abusing its monopoly on technologies that support online advertising.UK antitrust authorities also Investigate Google’s advertising practices.
The outcome of these cases could have a big impact on Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which reaps most of the gains $60 billion profit From last year’s ad. Ads underpin nearly all of Google’s most popular services, including search, email, maps and Android, and allow the company to offer them for free.
“Google is present at virtually all levels of the so-called ad tech supply chain,” European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. “Our initial concern is that Google may use its market position to support its own intermediary services.”
“This could harm not only Google’s competitors, but also publishers, while increasing costs for advertisers,” added Ms Vestager, who is in charge of digital and competition policy.
The new charges against Google are part of a long-running crackdown by European authorities on the world’s largest technology companies. Apple and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, are also the subject of antitrust investigations. Last year, the European Union passed new antitrust and digital services laws to tighten oversight of big tech companies. On Wednesday, the European Parliament, the European Union’s legislature, passed a draft law regulating artificial intelligence.
European authorities have fined Google billions of dollars in recent years for antitrust violations involving its Android mobile operating system, shopping service and another advertising business. All cases are pending in court after Google filed a legal appeal.
With the new allegations, the European Commission published what it called a “statement of objection” against Google, outlining why it believes the company violated antitrust law. It could be one step in a long process before a final decision is made on whether to fine Google up to 10% of its global revenue or order other changes to its business practices. A settlement can also be reached.
Google said it disagreed with the regulator’s findings and would “respond accordingly.”
“Our ad tech tools help websites and apps fund their content and enable businesses of all sizes to effectively reach new customers,” said Dan Taylor, vice president of global advertising at Google. “Google remains committed to creating value for our publisher and advertiser partners in this highly competitive space. The commission’s investigation, which focuses on a narrow aspect of our advertising business, is not new.”
European regulators began investigating Google two years ago, focusing on the display advertising market, which includes banners and other visual formats on websites. Google provides a variety of services to advertisers and publishers in this field. It collects data for targeted advertising, sells advertising space on the site and offers products that act as intermediaries between advertisers and the publishers who own the sites.
Ms Vestager said Google controlled so much of the online advertising supply chain that it made it harder for rivals to compete. Publishers such as News Corp have long complained that Google’s dominance limits the revenue they get from ads placed on their sites or from the presence of rival services.
The Council of European Publishers, an industry group representing media companies, applauded Wednesday’s action. The group said it had filed the complaint more than a year ago, describing how Google had “used its position against publishers”.
“We look forward to working with the committee as the case continues,” said Angela Mills Wade, the committee’s executive director.