was google Accused on Wednesday for violating European Union antitrust laws by using its dominance in online advertising to undercut competitors, the latest in a series of cases around the world that strike at the core of the internet giant’s business model.
The case was brought by the European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-nation European Union, and marks the fourth time Google has been accused of violating European antitrust laws in recent years. In this case, the European Union accused Google of abusing its market control to buy and sell online advertising.
The US Department of Justice filed similar charges against Google in January, accusing the company of illegally abusing a monopoly on technology that powers online advertising. So was the antitrust authority in Britain Investigate Google’s advertising practices.
The outcome of the cases could have major ramifications for Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which has harvested most of its business 60 billion dollars in profits last year of advertising. The ad supports nearly all of Google’s most popular services, including search, email, maps, and Android, and allows the company to offer them for free.
“Google is present at all levels of the so-called adtech supply chain,” Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission, said in a statement. “Our initial concern is that Google may have used its market position to benefit its own brokerage services.”
“This has not only harmed Google’s competitors, but also the interests of publishers, while also increasing costs for advertisers,” added Ms. Vestager, who oversees digital policy and competition policy.
The new charges against Google are part of a long-running effort by European authorities to clamp down on the world’s largest technology companies. Apple and Meta, which own Facebook and Instagram, are also the subject of antitrust investigations. Last year, the European Union passed new antitrust and digital services laws to tighten control over the largest technology companies. On Wednesday, the European Parliament, the legislative branch of the European Union, passed a bill regulating artificial intelligence.
In recent years, European authorities have fined Google billions of dollars for what they say are antitrust violations related to its Android mobile operating system, its shopping service, and another part of its advertising business. All cases remain closed in court after legal appeal by Google.
With the new charges, the European Commission has unveiled what’s known as a “Statement of Objections” against Google, explaining why it believes the company has breached antitrust laws. It’s just one step in a process that can take a long time before final decisions are made about whether to impose a fine of up to 10 percent of Google’s global revenue or order other changes to its business practices. A settlement can also be reached.
Google said it did not agree with the regulators’ findings and would “respond accordingly”.
“Our advertising technology tools help websites and apps monetize their content, enabling businesses of all sizes to effectively reach new customers,” said Dan Taylor, Vice President of Global Advertising at Google. “Google remains committed to creating value for our publisher and advertiser partners in this highly competitive sector. The committee’s investigation is focused on a narrow aspect of our advertising business and is not new.”
European regulators began investigating Google two years ago, focusing on the display advertising market, which includes banners and other visual formats on websites. Google offers a number of services to advertisers and publishers in this sector. It collects data to target ads, sells advertising space on websites and offers products that act as an intermediary between advertisers and publishers who own websites.
Ms. Vestager said that by controlling so much of the online advertising supply chain, Google makes it difficult for competitors to compete. Publishers like News Corp have long complained that Google’s dominance limits how much money they can make from ads placed on their websites, or from the emergence of competing services.
The European Publishers Council, an industry group that represents media companies, applauded Wednesday’s action. The group said it filed a complaint more than a year ago describing how Google “leveraged its position to the detriment of publishers”.
“We look forward to working with the commission as the case continues,” said the council’s executive director, Angela Mills Wade.
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