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Google faces second UK probe over ads monopoly

An exterior view of building BV100, during a tour of Google's new Bay View Campus in Mountain View, California, U.S. May 16, 2022. Picture taken May 16, 2022.   REUTERS/Peter DaSilva
Google’s ad dominance is being targeted by a second probe from the UK’s competition watchdog. Photo: Peter DaSilva/Reuters

Google is once again under investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over its advertising business.

The regulator said the Alphabet-owned (GOOG) search giant could be distorting competition and may have illegally favoured its own services.

The investigation will focus on advertising technology intermediation, also known as the “ad tech stack”, a set of services which facilitate the sale of online advertising space between sellers and buyers, and is said to be worth around £1.8bn a year.

The range of services Google offers means it deals with and charges fees to both ad sellers and buyers.

Read more: UK and EU open antitrust probes into Google and Meta over online ads

“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,” CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said.

“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.”

CMA’s latest probe follows its investigation into Google and Facebook owner Meta's "Jedi Blue" agreement earlier this year.

Google spokesperson said: “Advertising tools from Google and many competitors help websites and apps fund their content, and help businesses of all sizes effectively reach their customers.

Read more: CMA accepts Google's pledge on privacy

“Google’s tools alone have supported an estimated £55 billion in economic activity for over 700,000 businesses in the UK and when publishers choose to use our advertising services, they keep the majority of revenue.

“We will continue to work with the CMA to answer their questions and share the details on how our systems work.”

Watch: Google's ad business targeted by GOP-led bill