Google accused of 'online ads stranglehold' in EU complaint over 'unfair monopoly'

GOOGLE is facing a major anti-trust complaint over allegedly "unlawful tactics" to monopolise the online ads industry.

Major publishers say Google wields too much power in the sector – threatening a free press.

The complaint aims to "break the stranglehold" that the search engine giant has on online ads.

Taking on Google is the European Publishers Council (EPC), which represents some of Europe's biggest media groups.

It comes just days after the UK revealed plans to force Facebook and Google to pay for the journalism they profit from.

This latest complaint has been lodged with the European Commission, and argues that Google has been dominating online ads unfairly for over a decade.

They say this stifles competition, starving publishers of revenue needed to fund journalism.

According to the group, issues began when Google purchase ads firm DoubleClick in 2008 – allowing it to consolidate significant power.

"This strategy paid off, and Google has achieved end-to-end control of the ad tech value chain," said the EPC.

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It alleges that Google holds market shares of between 90% and 100% in parts of the industry.

"Google's ad tech suite is rife with conflicts of interests," said the EPC.

"As Google represents the buyer and the seller in the same transaction.

"While also operating the auction house in the middle, and selling its own inventory."

As recently as June, Google was fined €220million by the French competition watchdog over its dominance of the online ads market.

Italy levied a much smaller fine of €11.2million in November for similar reasons.

But these are small sums compared to Google's annual revenue, which rose to a staggering $147billion (£108billion) in 2020.

Much of these ad sales were driven through its key products like the Google search engine, YouTube and Gmail.

And just under a fifth of the ad revenue came from the Google tech that media companies use to sell ads on their own platforms.

"Competition authorities across the world have found that Google has restricted competition in ad tech," said Christian Van Thillo, EPC Chairman.

"Yet Google has been able to get away with minor commitments, which do nothing to bring about any meaningful changes to its conduct.

"This cannot go on.

"The stakes are too high, particularly for the future viability of funding a free and pluralistic press.

"We call on the Commission to take concrete steps right now that will actually break the stranglehold that Google has over us all."

Google said it plans to work with the Commission to resolve the complaint.

And the tech giant – worth around $1.82trillion on the stock market – says it helps publishers generate more revenue.

In a statement, Google said: "Online advertising underpins much of the content we enjoy and learn from online.

"It has enabled millions of small businesses to afford advertising for the first time.

"And for news publishers big and small, it's created new opportunities and substantial new revenue streams that did not exist in the print age.

"When publishers choose to use our advertising services, they keep the majority of revenue and every year we pay out billions of dollars directly to the publishing partners in our ad network."

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