Major "ad tech" lawsuit

Europe’s publishers demand 2.1 billion euros from Google

28.02.2024 16:00

On Wednesday, 30 European publishing houses from 17 different countries, including numerous Austrian media including the "Krone", filed a billion euro lawsuit against the US internet company Google. They are demanding 2.1 billion euros in damages, accusing the search engine and internet giant of anti-competitive behavior in "ad tech" - advertising technologies and ad servers on the internet.

The lawsuit was filed in Amsterdam and is being pursued by Geradin Partners, a law firm specializing in EU competition law. The lawsuit is based on a ruling from France. In 2021, the competition authority there found that Google had abused its dominant position in online advertising technology by favoring its own tools over those of its competitors to the detriment of website publishers.

30 media companies on board - including the "Krone"
A total of 30 European media companies have decided to assert claims for damages and to entrust the case to competition law experts with offices in London, Brussels and Amsterdam. They accuse Google of having caused them losses through market-distorting behavior: Without Google's dominance, they would have earned more and paid less for the advertising tools, they argue. From Austria, "Krone", "Heute" and "Kurier" are among the plaintiffs. Geradin Partners: "This centralized approach eliminates the need for multiple claims in different European countries, which would have created the risk of inconsistencies and rising costs."

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It is high time that Google is held accountable for its abuses and compensates the victims, Europe's diverse and vital media sector.

Damien Geradin von Geradin Partners

Law firm founder Damien Geradin: "We are proud to represent more than 30 publishers in pursuing this claim. Enough time has been spent exposing Google's misconduct in advertising technology, which is now visible for all to see. It is high time that Google is held accountable for its abuses and compensates the victims, Europe's diverse and vital media sector."

It's about the "Google Ad Manager"
The lawsuit is about a bundle of technologies that the US company provides in the "Google Ad Manager". "If we compare online advertising auctions with an exchange, Google would represent both sellers and buyers and at the same time be the owner of the exchange itself, creating a clear conflict of interest," the law firm said. Google is the dominant provider of online advertising servers, operates the most important advertising sales platform where advertisers secure ad impressions, and owns the tools used to bid on ad impressions.

In France, the competition authorities fined Google 220 million euros in 2021, arguing that Google had used its position of power in the online advertising market to put its own proprietary technologies in a better position than its competitors. This distorted the online advertising market and, at a time of rapid transformation, deprived the European publishing industry, which relies on it, of revenue. Google vowed to make changes: "We believe that we offer valuable services and are in competition. Nevertheless, we are committed to working proactively with regulators to make improvements to our products," Google's response said.

Online advertising market the subject of several investigations
Google's dominance of the advertising market is not only a concern for competition authorities in Brussels, but is also being scrutinized in the UK, Germany and the USA. A number of lawsuits and investigations are underway - see link box. In addition to online advertising, the US internet giant is also facing criticism from the publishing industry in other areas, which accuses it of not adequately compensating them for the exploitation of their content.

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