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Google’s ad dominance could be threatened by upcoming EU antitrust investigation

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The European Union is set to launch a formal investigation into Google’s adtech business before the end of the year, according to a report from Reuters. EU regulators have fined Google more than 8 billion euros ($9.8 billion) in the last three years for stifling competition in online shopping and digital advertising. In 2018, the EU slapped Google with a record-breaking €4.3 billion ($5 billion) fine for abusing its Android market dominance and requiring manufacturers to pre-install its Search and Chrome browser app on the best Android phones.

As per a person familiar with the matter, the probe would focus on “Google’s position vis-à-vis advertisers, publishers, intermediaries and rivals.” EU regulators are likely to conduct a much deeper investigation of Google’s ad practices than the antitrust case concluded by French authorities earlier this month.

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France’s competition watchdog fined Google €220 million ($267 million) for abusing its dominance in the online advertising market. Google’s advertising business is also under fire in the U.S. The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against the search giant in October last year for unlawfully maintaining a monopoly in the search text advertising market in the U.S.

Google’s rivals and some advertisers claim the company “takes advantage” of the dependence that buyers and sellers have on it to extract high fees and make it nearly impossible for rivals to compete with it. Data from Market researcher eMarketer suggests Google could control roughly 27% of the global online ad spending in 2021.

The EU sent out a 13-page questionnaire to advertisers in January, seeking information on the impact of the default “Include Google Display Network” setting that the search giant introduced for search campaigns on Google Ads in 2018. Advertisers were also asked if they received rebates when using Google intermediaries to buy advertising inventory.

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