Google was the subject of a new antitrust investigation for potentially abusing its dominance in the online advertising market to outdo the competition, EU regulators said on Tuesday.
The investigation, which is at the heart of Google’s business model, is part of a broader push by European authorities to crack down on the world’s biggest technology companies. Amazon, Apple and Facebook are also the subject of antitrust investigations from the 27-nation bloc, and the European Union is drafting new antitrust and digital services laws to further strengthen Big Tech’s oversight.
Online advertising has helped Google become one of the most valuable and powerful companies in the world. But publishers like News Corporation have long complained that Google’s dominance makes it harder to attract advertising revenue from their websites.
The European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, said the investigation was focused on the display advertising market where Google provides a range of services to both advertisers and publishers. The Company collects data for targeting advertising, sells ad space on websites on the Internet and provides services that act as an intermediary between advertisers and publishers.
Google this month settled a similar antitrust investigation by French authorities, agreeing to pay a fine of about $270 million to the company and make some changes to its advertising practices in France.
In the EU investigation, “we are concerned that Google has made it difficult for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president in charge of competition policy, said in a statement.
“The essence of the supply chain is an equal playing field for everyone,” she said.
A Google spokesperson said the company will “continue to engage constructively with the European Commission to answer their questions and demonstrate the benefits of our products.”
“Thousands of European businesses use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every day,” the spokesperson said. “They choose them because they are competitive and effective.”
Ms. Vestager is a well-known opponent of Google. The company has been accused of violating EU antitrust laws three times in recent years, resulting in billions of dollars in fines over Google’s online shopping service, the Android mobile operating system and other advertising practices.
All matters are subject to appeal by Google.