EU Regulator Moves to Breakup of Google's Ad-Tech Business

EU Regulator Moves to Breakup of Google’s Ad-Tech Business

Europe’s top antitrust regulator said it may seek the breakup of Google’s ad-tech business as it charged the tech giant with abusing its online advertising technology industry dominance.

The move Wednesday means Europe is joining the U.S.’s antitrust assault on Google’s ad-tech business, potentially setting up a protected battle that could shake up the broader business of buying and selling ads across websites and apps.

The European Commission, the European Union’s antitrust regulator, said that Google abused its dominant role in the buying and selling of online ads across third-party websites and apps to drive business to its own advertising auction house.

The commission said Wednesday that its preliminary view is that Google must sell off parts of its ad-tech business to resolve the “inherent conflicts of interest” in the company’s role in the plumbing of digital advertising.

The commission didn’t immediately say which parts of its business Google might have to sell. But it said Google operates the dominant ad server used by website publishers and the dominant buying tools for marketers to buy ads on the open web.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that the commission was considering ordering a breakup of Google’s ad-tech business.

Google will have a chance to respond to the commission’s formal complaint before any final judgment is issued. If found guilty, the company could also face a fine of up to 10% of its annual worldwide revenue–though it can appeal a decision in EU court.

The EU’s decision to mention a potential remedy, particularly a potential divestiture, is an unusual step at this stage of an antitrust case.

In most cases, the EU typically waits until it has found a company guilty before discussing potential remedies, and in abuse of dominance cases those remedies usually are orders to change behaviour, not divestitures.

Google has previously contested allegations that its presence at different points in the online ad-buying process gives it an unfair advantage. The company has also said it doesn’t plan to sell or exit the ad-tech business. #EU Regulator Moves to Breakup of Google’s Ad-Tech Business

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