CMA And EC Investigate Google And Meta Over Ad Tech Concerns

The Competition and Markets Authority and the European Commission have launched new investigations into Google and Meta’s conduct over concerns that they hampered competition in markets for online display advertising services.

The CMA is focusing on whether the companies restricted or prevented the uptake of header bidding services and whether Google also affected the ability of other firms to compete with its products in this area.

As part of its investigation, the CMA will consider whether an agreement between Google and Meta – which Google internally codenamed “Jedi Blue” – broke the law. The CMA is also scrutinising Google’s conduct in relation to header bidding services more widely to see if the firm abused a dominant position and gained an unfair advantage over competitors trying to provide a similar service.

The EC has launched its own probe into the agreement between Google and Meta and the agreement is also the subject of a complaint by the State of Texas (and other US States) currently in the US courts. The CMA will seek to work closely with the EC as the independent investigations develop.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, said: “We’re concerned that Google may have teamed up with Meta to put obstacles in the way of competitors who provide important online display advertising services to publishers.

“If one company has a stranglehold over a certain area, it can make it hard for start-ups and smaller businesses to break into the market – and may ultimately reduce customer choice.

“We will not shy away from scrutinising the behaviour of big tech firms while we await powers for the Digital Markets Unit, working closely with global regulators to get the best outcomes possible.”

This case follows on from the CMA’s market study into online platforms and digital advertising which found, among other things, that the “exploitation” of commercial relationships with news media publishers by Google and Facebook was likely to lead to consumer harm as publishers were less likely to be able to monetise their content.