Google may have to sell some part of its advertising technology business in order to satisfy the European Union, with the political bloc have found that this is the only remedy for the competition concerns swirling around the company.
In a detailed statement released on Wednesday, the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, said that it had made a preliminary finding that Google was dominant in markets in the European economic area, with the two areas of dominance being:
- for publisher ad servers with its service DFP; and
- for programmatic ad buying tools for the open Web with its services Google Ads and DV360.
The EC said it had informed the search behemoth of its preliminary view that it had breached EU anti-trust rules by distorting competition in the ad tech business.
“The Commission takes issue with Google favoring its own online display advertising technology services to the detriment of competing providers of advertising technology services, advertisers, and online publishers,” the statement said.
“Google provides several adtech services that intermediate between advertisers and publishers in order to display ads on Web sites or mobile apps. It operates (i) two ad buying tools – Google Ads and DV 360; (ii) a publisher ad server, DoubleClick For Publishers, or DFP; and (iii) an ad exchange, AdX.
“The Commission preliminarily finds that, since at least 2014, Google abused its dominant positions by:
“Favouring its own ad exchange AdX in the ad selection auction run by its dominant publisher ad server DFP by, for example, informing AdX in advance of the value of the best bid from competitors which it had to beat to win the auction; and
“Favouring its ad exchange AdX in the way its ad buying tools Google Ads and DV360 place bids on ad exchanges. For example, Google Ads was avoiding competing ad exchanges and mainly placing bids on AdX, thus making it the most attractive ad exchange.”
The EU investigation into possible anti-competitive conduct by Google in the online advertising technology sector was formally begun on 22 June 2021.
A study by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in 2021 claimed Google’s dominance in the advertising technology supply chain was harming both companies and individuals.
Contacted for comment, Google’s vice-president of Global Ads Dan Taylor said: “Our advertising technology tools help websites and apps fund their content, and enable businesses of all sizes to effectively reach new customers.
“Google remains committed to creating value for our publisher and advertiser partners in this highly competitive sector. The Commission’s investigation focuses on a narrow aspect of our advertising business and is not new. We disagree with the EC’s view and we will respond accordingly.”