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CMA launches another probe into Google ad practices

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a second investigation into Google’s practices in advertising technology.

The watchdog said it is investigating whether Google has broken the law by restricting competition in the digital advertising technology market.

This latest probe follows the CMA’s investigation into Google and Meta’s ‘Jedi Blue’ agreement.

The CMA said the inquiry concerns advertising technology intermediation, also known as the ‘ad tech stack’ – a complex set of services which enable the sale of online advertising space.

In 2019, UK advertisers spent about £1.8 billion on this kind of online advertising, and millions of Brits use websites that rely on advertising revenue to offer high-quality, free content.

The CMA said: “Google has strong positions at various levels of the ad tech stack, charging fees to both publishers and advertisers.”

It is examining three key parts of this chain, in each of which Google owns the largest service provider – demand-side platforms; ad exchanges; and publisher ad servers.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, said: “We’re worried that Google may be using its position in ad tech to favour its own services to the detriment of its rivals, of its customers and ultimately of consumers.

“This would be bad for the millions of people who enjoy access to a wealth of free information online every day.

“Weakening competition in this area could reduce the ad revenues of publishers, who may be forced to compromise the quality of their content to cut costs or put their content behind paywalls. It may also be raising costs for advertisers which are passed on through higher prices for advertised goods and services.

“It’s vital that we continue to scrutinise the behaviour of the tech firms which loom large over our lives and ensure the best outcomes for people and businesses throughout the UK.”

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