The EU says Google has potentially been engaged in conflict of interest behaviour in the adtech space since 2014 by favouring its own services.
The European Commission has sent a statement of objections to Google today (14 June) in which it alleges the tech giant breached EU antitrust laws over its attempts to influence its market position in the adtech sector.
The EU accuses Google of bad faith behaviours such as favouring its own online display advertising technology services to the detriment of competitors. The company already has a dominant position in the online adtech sector, which was pointed out by Margrethe Vestager, executive VP in charge of competition policy in the EU.
“Google is present at almost all levels of the so-called adtech supply chain,” said Vestager. The tech giant collects user data, sells advertising space and acts as an online advertising intermediary.
The EU has decided that Google has abused its market position since 2014. “Our preliminary concern is that Google may have used its market position to favour its own intermediation services. Not only did this possibly harm Google’s competitors but also publishers’ interests, while also increasing advertisers’ costs. If confirmed, Google’s practices would be illegal under our competition rules,” added Vestager.
Today’s statement of objections was welcomed by the CEO of Kelkoo Group, a European price comparison service and e-commerce company. According to Richard Stables, Google’s business practices “distort competition, stifle innovation and harm consumer welfare”.
He added that Kelkoo Group has “first-hand experience of how fines are seen as the cost of business and remedies proposed by Google do not lead to fair and genuine competition”. He said that the EU should examine all possible remedies to ensure its investigation “leads to fundamental change”.
Today’s statement from the EU only formally informs Google in writing that it is looking into its practices and does not guarantee any judgement yet. The EU has been investigating Google’s adtech practices since 2021. While the company can have a dominant position in the market, the source of the EU’s concern is that it has been using its position to favour its own adtech services. This is not the first time the EU has marked Google’s card over adtech – in 2019 it fined Google €1.49bn for abusing its market position.
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