European publishers lodge EU antitrust complaint against Google's ad tech

Publishers claim Google has an unfair grip on the press.

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Google is facing more antitrust pressure in the EU over its advertising tech. Reuters reports the European Publishers Council (EPC) has filed an EU complaint against Google alleging the company has an illegal "stranglehold" on ad tech and the press. The Internet giant's ad suite is claimed to be "rife with conflicts of interests" as it not only represents the buyer, seller and auction house, but supposedly exploits that control to profit at the expense of its customers.

Council Chairman Christian Van Thillo saw the complaint as prompting the EU to take action where it was otherwise reluctant. The move should make Google "actually change" its behavior after years of "minor commitments" that don't provide any substantial impact, Van Thillo said. The EPC pointed to antitrust cases in multiple countries to support its case, including a multi-state US lawsuit.

The EU began its newest probe into Google's ad business in June 2021. It shares the EPC's general concerns about potential abuse. It didn't set a deadline for the investigation, however, and has already fined Google three times over its ad practices. Antitrust hunts like these can take years to wind down, and the complaint theoretically accelerates the process.

In a statement, Google argued companies enjoyed its ad tech but didn't address the unfair competition issues. Publishers keep the "majority of revenue," which climbs to "billions" of US dollars, a representative said.

There's no certainty the EPC complaint will prompt the EU to demand significant changes to Google's ad policies. It might ramp up the pressure on Google to act, however, even if it's just to minimize any potential penalties.