Google’s advertising tech faces EU investigation over competition concerns

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Google’s advertising technology is to be probed by EU investigators amid concerns the tech giant could be distorting competition. The European Commission said its latest antitrust investigation will focus on whether the firm has breached competition rules by favouring its own online display advertising technology services over rivals.

Google’s use of data for advertising purposes on websites and apps will also be examined, to determine whether the company unfairly restricts competitor access to such data and reserves it for their own use.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s commission’s competition chief and executive vice president for digital, said:

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Online advertising services are at the heart of how Google and publishers monetise their online services.

Google collects data to be used for targeted advertising purposes, it sells advertising space and also acts as an online advertising intermediary.

So Google is present at almost all levels of the supply chain for online display advertising.

We are concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack.

Other key areas within Google’s booming advertising business will also be looked at, including ads on YouTube, as well as the tech firm’s planned changes to third party cookies in the Chrome web browser, which many publishers rely on to generate income.

The move follows a number of EU probes into Google’s market dominance in recent years.

In March 2019, the EC issued a €1.49bn (£1.27 bn) fine to Google for imposing restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites, preventing rivals from placing their search adverts on these websites.

A Google spokesperson responded:

Thousands of European businesses use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every single day.

They choose them because they’re competitive and effective.

We will continue to engage constructively with the European Commission to answer their questions and demonstrate the benefits of our products to European businesses and consumers.

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