EU competition regulators take aim at Google's advertising business

The EU Commission has launched the most far-reaching competition proceedings to date regarding Google's advertising business - the Internet company's money machine. The central issue is whether Google has given itself an advantage over rivals in advertising services, thereby distorting competition.

Google collects data for the personalisation of advertising, sells advertising space and at the same time acts as an intermediary in the placement of advertising, EU Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager stressed in Brussels on Tuesday. This means that Google is involved in almost all stages of the advertising business.

"We suspect that Google may have made it more difficult for rival online advertising services to compete in the field of advertising technology," Vestager said. Competition regulators are investigating, among other things, whether Google has denied advertisers and rival ad intermediaries access to information about user behaviour that is available for its own services.

The tech giant has been the focus of the EU Commission for years. Vestager imposed fines totalling 8.25 billion dollars in three proceedings. Among other things, it was about the smartphone operating system Android and the shopping search. Google digested the fines with only slight dents in its balance sheet. At the same time, the company took legal action against the measures.

In the current proceedings, the Commission is taking a deep dive into Google's advertising mechanisms. Among other things, it is examining the compulsion to use the group's own services "Google Ads" or "Display and Video 360" when placing ads on Google's video platform YouTube. In this context, the competition authorities are investigating the suspicion that these services interact better with the AdX ad exchange, which also belongs to Google.

The Commission also wants to scrutinise Google's plan to phase out so-called third-party cookies in its Chrome web browser and offer a collection of software tools instead.

Google has already responded to the announcement: The company will continue to work constructively with the European Commission to answer their questions and demonstrate the benefits of our products for European businesses and consumers, it said. Thousands of European businesses use Google's advertising products - "because they are competitive and effective". (SDA)

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