Vestager Urged to Probe How Tech Giants Cash In on Ads
EU antitrust enforcers are being urged to scrutinize how ads fuel profits at tech giants as watchdogs start to investigate how the market works, according to Bloomberg.
Brave Software, which makes an ad-blocking browser, wrote to EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager warning how a handful of companies control how ads are placed with web publishers, a situation that might allow them to dictate prices and terms. Despite online advertising’s size and importance "it is an opaque market" that may be "distorted by severe concentration issues, and perhaps by anti-competitive behavior," Johnny Ryan, Brave’s chief policy officer, said in the letter. He’s calling for the EU to start a wide “sector inquiry” to examine the entire online ad industry.
Online ads are already a focus for several smaller antitrust agencies in Europe, often prompted by complaints from media companies as advertising spend shifts to the web. France’s competition authority has flagged the scale of Google’s ad offer and data as a potential concern. Germany started an inquiry in February and Dutch regulators have been looking at how media companies generate ad revenue. The U.K. recently signaled it plans to start its own inquiry.
Google has been a target of EU antitrust investigations for almost a decade, racking up 6.7 billion euros in fines over how it displays rival product search ads and strikes pacts to distribute search and browser apps on phones. A third probe, into its AdSense advertising service, is "approaching the end," Vestager has said. Google warned of "significant uncertainty" on its outcome. In that case, the EU has taken aim at contracts that prevented Google customers accepting rival search ads, required them to purchase a minimum amount of ads from Google and to place its ads prominently.