BRUSSELS, June 18 (Reuters) – Alphabet’s unit (GOOGL.O) Google could face its biggest regulatory threat, as EU antitrust regulators prepare to open a formal investigation into its lucrative business as a digital advertising before the end of the year, people familiar with the matter said.
This would mark a new front for the EU competition authority against Google. Over the past decade, he fined the company more than 8 billion euros ($ 9.8 billion) for blocking competitors in online shopping, Android smartphones and online advertising. line.
An EU investigation would focus on Google’s position vis-à-vis advertisers, publishers, middlemen and rivals, one of the people said, indicating further scrutiny of the case. French antitrust agency concluded last week.
Google made $ 147 billion in revenue from online advertising last year, more than any other company in the world. Ads on its properties, including search, YouTube and Gmail, accounted for the bulk of sales and profits.
About 16% of the revenue came from its display or network business, in which other media companies use Google technology to sell advertisements on their website and apps.
Both units are under fire. The US Department of Justice, joined by some states, sued Google last year for abusing its dominance in search ads. A Texas-led group of states in a subsequent lawsuit focused on anti-competitive behavior on the network side of the house.
France settled last week with Google for $ 268 million and various commitments over similar allegations related to network activity, and the unit is also to work closely with the UK competition regulator on software changes. to come as part of a settlement reached a few days later. Read more
The Commission declined to comment. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A new EU investigation could end up targeting Google’s entire advertising empire. EMarketer market research expects Google to control 27% of global online ad spend this year, with 57% for search ads and 10% for display.
While the numbers don’t seem monopolistic at first glance, advertisers and rivals argue that Google’s various software plays a role in so many facets of the market that the company cannot be avoided.
They say Google is taking advantage of the dependence of buyers, sellers and middlemen on it to extract high fees from all sides and prevent its rivals from competing fairly.
In a questionnaire sent to Google competitors and third parties earlier this year and consulted by Reuters, the EU watchdog asked whether advertisers received discounts when they used Google intermediaries, which allow advertisers to advertisers or multimedia agencies purchase advertising inventory from many sources. Read more
The Commission should close current cases before starting new ones, said Thomas Hoppner, a partner at Hausfeld law firm, who is advising several plaintiffs against Google.
“From a practitioner’s perspective and from an industry perspective, it seems just as important to end Google’s local search and job search investigations when other authorities have opened investigations into it. ‘adtech from Google,’ he said.
($ 1 = 0.8399 euros)
Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; edited by David Evans
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.