EU opens antitrust probe into Google’s promoting unit

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A logo outside the Google Store Chelsea in New York, May 28, 2021.

Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, opened a new investigation against Google on Tuesday to determine whether the tech giant preferred its own online display advertising services in violation of antitrust rules.

“Google collects data that is used for targeted advertising purposes, sells advertising space and also acts as an online advertising broker. So Google is present at almost every level of the online display advertising supply chain. We fear Google has made it harder for competing online advertising services to compete in what is known as the ad tech stack, “said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission.

As part of the new investigation, the Commission will assess the restrictions that Google has placed on the access of advertisers, publishers and other third parties to access data on user identity and behavior.

A Google spokesman said via email: “Thousands of European companies use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every day. You choose them because they are competitive and effective. We will continue to work constructively with the European Commission “to answer their questions and demonstrate the benefits of our products to European businesses and consumers.”

The announcement marks the official start of a full assessment of Google’s behavior in the ad space with no set deadline for completion. It also complements a list of explorations and fines that have taken place in the European market in recent years.

Earlier this month, the French competition authority fined Google € 220 million (US $ 262 million) for abusing its market power in the online advertising industry.

In addition, the Commission imposed a fine of 1.49 billion euros on Google in March 2019 for violating antitrust regulations. At the time, the Brussels-based institution announced that the US company had imposed restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites that prevented Google’s competitors from placing their search ads on these websites.

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