CMA investigates Google and Meta over ad tech issues

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  • CMA and European Commission launch parallel investigations into Google and Meta’s “Jedi Blue” deal.
  • CMA’s chief executive said: “We will not hesitate to examine the behavior of large tech companies pending the powers of the Digital Markets Unit.”

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is focusing on whether companies have restricted or prevented the use of header auction services and whether Google has also affected the ability of other companies to compete with its products in this area.

Header bidding is a service that allows sellers, such as newspaper publishers, to offer their online advertising space to several buyers at the same time, rather than receiving offers one by one. As a result, buyers – or advertisers – compete for advertising space, and publishers can compare offers from multiple buyers simultaneously. This competition between buyers can make auctions more competitive.

As part of its investigation, the CMA will examine whether an agreement between Google and Meta (formerly Facebook) – which Google internally referred to as “Jedi Blue” – broke the law. The CMA is also looking more broadly at Google’s conduct with respect to header auction services to see whether the company abused a dominant position and gained an unfair advantage over competitors trying to provide a service. similar.

The European Commission (EC) has launched its own investigation into the deal between Google and Meta and the deal is also the subject of a complaint by the State of Texas (and other US states) currently in court. Americans. The CMA will endeavor to work closely with the EC as independent investigations develop.

Andrea Coscelli, CEO of CMA, said:

We are concerned that Google has partnered 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 on a certain area, it can make it difficult for start-ups and small businesses to break into the market – and can ultimately reduce customer choice.

We won’t hesitate to review the behavior of big tech companies pending the powers of the Digital Markets Unit, working closely with global regulators to achieve the best possible results.

As this is only the start of the CMA’s investigation, no decision has been made as to whether Google or Meta broke the law.

This case follows the CMA’s Market Study of Online Platforms and Digital Advertising, which examined Google’s position in relation to header auction services and the “technology stack advertising” – of which header bidding services are a part. The CMA has also received complaints about Google’s conduct in this area.

The government has recently proposed powers for the digital markets unit which will sit within the CMA. This unit will ultimately be responsible for deciding which “big tech” companies are subject to legally enforceable codes of conduct to govern their behavior.

In the meantime, the CMA is continuing its investigations into Apple’s App Store, Meta’s data usage, and Apple and Google’s mobile ecosystems due to competition concerns. He recently accepted Google’s commitments regarding its proposal to remove third-party cookies from the Chrome browser. CMA has taken a joint approach to all related cases to ensure the best results for clients and other businesses.

Read more about this investigation on the case page.

Notes to Editors

  1. The competition law relevant to the CMA’s investigation is the Competition Act 1998. This case concerns both the Chapter I prohibition (which makes agreements illegal when they have the object or effect of restricting competition) and the Chapter II prohibition (which makes it illegal for a company that holds a position dominant to behave to the detriment of the competition): a) For Chapter I, the case includes both Google and Meta (formerly Facebook), and the agreement between them; b) For Chapter II, the case concerns only Google’s conduct, including its agreement with Meta.

  2. The CMA can launch an investigation under the Competition Act 1998 if it has reasonable grounds to suspect that a breach of competition law has occurred. If the CMA decides that Google or Meta violated competition law, it can impose a fine of up to 10% of the company’s worldwide revenue, as well as issue legally binding instructions to end to the offence.

  3. “Google” refers to Google UK Limited, Google LLC and Alphabet Inc and “Meta” refers to Facebook UK Limited, Meta Platforms Ireland Limited and Meta Platforms, Inc.

  4. Advertising technology is used in the sale of online advertising. A series of tools have been developed and sold to facilitate the intermediate sale of online advertising between sellers (publishers, such as newspapers and news websites) and buyers (advertisers). Header bidding is a service in the ad tech stack that emerged around 2015 and has been widely adopted. Google has a strong position in every part of the ad tech stack. More information can be found in the AMC’s final report for its market study on online platforms and digital advertising.

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