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EU to file a formal antitrust complaint against Google’s advertising business

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Bloomberg today reported that the European Commission is planning to file a formal antitrust complaint against Google’s advertising business. The initial charge sheet may get announced as soon as Wednesday (14th June).

Back in 2021, the European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Google favoured 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 EC was examining 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 Commission was investigating the following:

  • 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.

if proven guilty, fines for EU antitrust violations can reach as much as 10% of Alphabet’s annual global sales. In FY2022, Alphabet reported revenue of $282 billion. So, the fines could reach up to a massive $28 billion!

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