Competition probes keep stacking up on Google

23 Jun 2021

Image: © wolterke/Stock.adobe.com

The EU’s latest probe is just one of many that Google is now juggling around the world as its dominance comes under the microscope.

With the EU opening yet another investigation into Google, the hits keep coming for the tech giant.

The European Commission’s opening of an investigation into Google’s advertising business comes as little surprise as antitrust authorities on both sides of the Atlantic ramp up their scrutiny of Big Tech.

Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager and her investigation will probe whether Google has prioritised its own online display advertising technology service at the expense of rivals and their ads.

EU officials have taken issue with Google being active “at almost all levels of the supply chain for online display advertising”, which would give it a bird’s eye view of competitors and may not make for a level playing field.

Advertising is Google’s golden goose and the engine behind its business that turned it into the machine it is today.

It’s a big case and will be years before any results are seen, but ads have come under the microscope increasingly for Google. Earlier this month, French authorities fined Google €220m over abusing its dominance in the ads market.

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But it’s not just ads. This latest probe is the fourth investigation that the EU has launched into Google, which includes a €4.3bn fine against the tech giant. That fine recently led to Google changing its policies on allowing more search engines a place on Android. In total, the EU has fined Google €8.2bn to date in its investigations.

National authorities continue to act too. Last month, Germany initiated a wide-ranging probe into Google under a recently enacted competition law amendment in the country.

The UK, now outside of the EU, has seen its Competition and Markets Authority become a more prominent player in Big Tech policing. Google said it was working with the CMA to craft its new policies on cookies and user tracking.

The US, meanwhile, has taken action and Google is facing several antitrust lawsuits that challenge its market position.

Europe and the US dominate the discussion on competition and Big Tech. The EU announcement yesterday (22 June) overshadowed another move in India. The Competition Commission of India is investigating Google’s place in the smart TV market and its stance on pre-installed apps on Android.

In April, Russian authorities opened an investigation into Google-owned YouTube.

Not to mention Google’s high-stakes stand-off with Australia over payments for news content, which could be replicated elsewhere.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

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