Google was recently fined 220 million Euro after admitting to French regulators that they were favouring their own ad network over rivals.
Now the company is once again under investigation by the European Commission, this time about the future of ad tech.
The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Google has violated EU competition rules by favouring its own online display advertising technology services in the so called “ad tech” supply chain, to the detriment of competing providers of advertising technology services, advertisers and online publishers. The formal investigation will notably examine whether Google is distorting competition by restricting access by third parties to user data for advertising purposes on websites and apps, while reserving such data for its own use.
The last bit refers to Google’s plan to place itself as an intermediary between advertisers and end-users in a move that Google calls privacy-preserving, but the EU feels may be anti-competitive.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, explained:
“We are concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack. A level playing field is of the essence for everyone in the supply chain. Fair competition is important – both for advertisers to reach consumers on publishers’ sites and for publishers to sell their space to advertisers, to generate revenues and funding for content. We will also be looking at Google’s policies on user tracking to make sure they are in line with fair competition.”
Other concerns include:
- The obligation to use Google’s services Display & Video 360 (‘DV360′) and/or Google Ads to purchase online display advertisements on YouTube.
- The obligation to use Google Ad Manager to serve online display advertisements on YouTube, and potential restrictions placed by Google on the way in which services competing with Google Ad Manager are able to serve online display advertisements on YouTube.
- The apparent favouring of Google’s ad exchange “AdX” by DV360 and/or Google Ads and the potential favouring of DV360 and/or Google Ads by AdX.
- The restrictions placed by Google on the ability of third parties, such as advertisers, publishers or competing online display advertising intermediaries, to access data about user identity or user behaviour which is available to Google’s own advertising intermediation services, including the Doubleclick ID.
- Google’s announced plans to prohibit the placement of third party ‘cookies’ on Chrome and replace them with the “Privacy Sandbox” set of tools, including the effects on online display advertising and online display advertising intermediation markets.
- Google’s announced plans to stop making the advertising identifier available to third parties on Android smart mobile devices when a user opts out of personalised advertising, and the effects on online display advertising and online display advertising intermediation markets.
It is important to note that the European Commission is not focussing so much on privacy on this occasion (this is already covered by the GDPR) but on the effect Google’s plans on limiting competition and cementing their monopoly even further.
The Commission says they will be carrying out the investigation as a matter of priority. The full complaint can be read here.