British watchdog investigating Google over dominance in digital ad market

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May 26 (UPI) — Britain’s antitrust watchdog said Thursday that it’s investigating tech giant Google over its dominance in the technology advertising market — which is the second time this year that the company is facing such an inquiry.

The Competition and Markets Authority announced the investigation, which will examine Google’s advertising technology intermediation, also known as the ad tech stack.

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Essentially, the watchdog is looking for any potential anti-competitive behavior on Google’s part that might have aided the tech giant in the British market.

“[Ad tech stack] is a complex set of services which facilitate the sale of online advertising space between sellers (publishers, like online newspapers and other content providers) and buyers (advertisers),” the CMA said in a statement.

Specifically, the CMA said it’s looking into how Google acts as both a demand-side platform and an operator of ad servers.

“We’re worried that Google may be using its position in ad tech to favor its own services to the detriment of its rivals, of its customers and ultimately of consumers,” CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli said in a statement. “This would be bad for the millions of people who enjoy access to a wealth of free information online every day.”

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If Google is weakening competition, it could reduce ad revenues for publishers and force them to compromise content quality to cut costs or impose a paywall, the CMA said.

“It may also be raising costs for advertisers which are passed on through higher prices for advertised goods and services,” Coscelli added.

The investigation is the second Google has had to face this year. The CMA and the European Union opened a separate inquiry in February against Google and Facebook-owner Meta over concerns about dominance in the digital market.

Big Tech has been the subject of numerous investigations in recent years concerning antitrust and privacy issues. On Wednesday, social giant Twitter agreed to pay $150 million to U.S. regulators for misrepresenting privacy and security practices.

The complaint said that Twitter asked users to provide phone numbers and email addresses to protect their accounts, but also allowed advertisers to use the personal information for profit.