Commission to consider if Google is distorting competition by restricting access by third parties to user data for advertising purposes on websites and apps, while reserving such data for its own use.
The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Google has violated EU competition rules by favouring its own online display advertising technology services in the adtech supply chain, to the detriment of competing providers of advertising technology services, advertisers and online publishers. In particular, the investigation will consider if Google is distorting competition by restricting access by third parties to user data for advertising purposes on websites and apps, while reserving such data for its own use.
Many publishers rely on online display advertising to fund free online content for consumers. In 2019, display advertising spending in the EU was estimated to be approximately €20 billion. Google provides several adtech services that intermediate between advertisers and publishers to display ads on web sites or mobile apps.
The Commission's investigation will focus on display advertising where Google offers services both to advertisers and publishers. As part of its in-depth investigation, the Commission will examine:
If proven, the practices under investigation may breach EU competition rules on anticompetitive agreements between companies (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)) and/or on the abuse of a dominant position (Article 102 TFEU).
The Commission says that it will take into account the need to protect user privacy under EU data protection laws, including the GDPR. It says that competition law and data protection laws must work hand in hand to ensure that display advertising markets operate on a level playing field in which all market participants protect user privacy in the same manner.
The Commission will now carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority. It emphasises that the opening of a formal investigation does not prejudge its outcome.