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European media groups sue Google for $2.3 billion over digital ad losses

“Without Google’s abuse of its dominant position, the media companies would have received significantly higher revenues from advertising and paid lower fees for ad tech services,” the lawsuit argued.

32 European media groups have come together to file a lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google for $2.3 billion, claiming they suffered losses due to the company’s digital advertising practices. The group, spanning 17 European countries, accused Google of anti-competitive behaviour and exploiting its dominance over digital advertising. A press release by their lawyers on 8 February said, “The media companies involved have incurred losses due to a less competitive market, which is a direct result of Google’s misconduct. Without Google’s abuse of its dominant position, the media companies would have received significantly higher revenues from advertising and paid lower fees for ad tech services.” A spokesperson for Google responded to the allegations by calling the lawsuit “speculative and opportunistic”, in a statement to the Guardian.

Previously, Google has been accused of gaining high revenues by taking news snippets from publishers and displaying them on its News tab or on the Search screen. In turn, this limits the number of users who visit the news publishers’ website, thus lowering the ad revenue, which news websites heavily depend on.

The companies accusing Google of “anti competitive behaviour” called Google’s control over every resource for creating digital ads, “a clear conflict of interest.” In the press release, they said, “It [Google] has the dominant ad server for website publishers such as the news companies that are claimants in this action [lawsuit]. It also operates the key supply-side platform where the tools that advertisers use can bid for impressions. Finally, it owns key tools used by advertisers. It is therefore broker, auctioneer and sales agent at the same time.”

Google’s past allegations of anti-competitive behaviour

This is not the first time Google has been challenged for its alleged anti-competitive behaviour in digital advertising. The lawsuit also cited past investigations into Google’s competition practices:

  • In 2021, the French competition authority fined Google €220 million for abusing its dominant position in the advertising server market and granting preferential treatment to its own proprietary technologies. Google settled with the authority
  • In October 2022, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for depriving them of ad revenue. The case is still ongoing.
  • In 2022, the UK competition authority launched an investigation into suspected anti-competitive conduct by Google in ad tech, which is still ongoing
  • In January 2023, the US department of justice filed a civil lawsuit for monopolising key digital advertising technologies. The case is still ongoing.
  • In June 2023, the European Commission issued a statement of objections for the same allegations and breaching EU competition law. Google made an official response to this saying that it was based on “flawed interpretations of the ad tech sector.”

News publishers are asking Google to pay

News publishers have long been critical of Google’s alleged digital ad practices leading to lowered revenue. Many countries like Australia, Canada, France, and  Spain have passed laws requiring platforms like Google to pay news publishers for their content. Other countries like New Zealand, the US, and India are also considering similar laws.

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