EU opens investigation into Google for possible online advertising anti-competitive practices

The European Commission has launched yet another investigation into Google for possible anti-competitive practices. The technology giant is being accused of possibly favouring their own online display advertising technology services when it comes to providing third-party access to user data, which would violate existing competition laws.

According to the European Commission, publishers spent approximately €20 billion for display advertising spending in the European Union, and Google is one of the largest provider of advertising technology services for publishers.

The investigation will look into Google’s alleged practice of restricting user data access to third-party publishers, while giving the data to their own ad publishing service. If this true, Google will have an unfair advantage, and it will go against European anti-competitive laws.

Commenting on the launch of the investigation, Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, said:

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. 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.