Googles ad business reportedly subject of new EU antitrust probe

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Google is battling anti-monopoly regulators on both sides of the Atlantic — and the European Union is reportedly about to turn up the heat.

Antitrust regulators in the bloc are set to launch an investigation into Google’s lucrative ad business by the end of the year, Reuters reported, building on three other antitrust probes that have resulted in $9.8 billion in fines so far.

Google dominates the digital advertising market worldwide, taking in 27.5 percent of all global ad spending, according to market research firm eMarketer. Its share of the US ad market last year was 28.9 percent, according to the firm.

The search giant’s share of online advertising, however, is much greater. In 2019, the European Union estimated that Google’s market share of online display ads was more than 85 percent between 2006 and 2016.

Advertising brought Google $147 billion in revenue last year — about 80 percent of the company’s total income. Ads on Google’s own properties including search, YouTube and Gmail made up the bulk of Google’s ad sales and profits last year. About 16 percent of revenue came from its display or network business, through which other media companies use Google technology to sell ads on their website and apps.

Google and a spokesperson for the European Commission, the branch of the EU that would reportedly oversee the investigation, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The EU’s antitrust watchdog asked Google rivals and third parties earlier this year if advertisers receive rebates when they use Google intermediaries, which allow advertisers or media agencies to buy advertising inventory from many sources, according to a questionnaire seen by Reuters. 

In 2018, the EU slapped Google with a record $5 billion fine for forcing cellphone makers to install Google apps on phones using the company’s Android operating system. And in 2017, the EU made Google pay $2.7 billion for using its search engine to steer customers toward its own shopping platform. A third $1.7 billion fine in 2019 centered on Google’s advertising sales practices.  

Google is also taking regulatory heat in the US, where it faces antitrust probes from the Department of Justice and from several states’ attorneys general. 

Last week, a bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers introduced a package of five antitrust bills that could force Google and other tech giants like Apple and Facebook to overhaul or even break up their business empires.

With Post Wires

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