Statement of Objections by the EU Commission on Google’s practices in adtech

Google is active on both sides of the market with its publisher ad server and with its ad buying tools and holds a dominant position on both ends.

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The European Commission has informed Google of its preliminary view that the company breached EU antitrust rules by distorting competition in the advertising technology industry (‘adtech’). Google, has been accused of abusing its dominant position in the adtech industry by favouring its own services over competitors, advertisers and publishers. According to the European Commission’s Statement of Objections, Google is dominant in the European Economic Area-wide markets 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 Commission believes that Google has breached EU antitrust rules by distorting competition in the advertising technology industry.

As a conclusion in its investigation, the Commission has found that Google has abused its dominant positions by favouring its own ad exchange, AdX, in the ad selection auction run by its dominant publisher ad server, DFP. For example, Google is accused of informing AdX in advance of the value of the best bid from competitors which it had to beat to win the auction. Furthermore, Google Ads and DV360 were found to be placing bids on AdX, making it the most attractive ad exchange.

A behavioural remedy is likely to be ineffective to prevent the risk that Google continues such self-preferencing conducts or engages in new ones. The Commission’s preliminary view is therefore that only the mandatory divestment by Google of part of its services would address its competition concerns.