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11 Mar, 2022 12:00

US tech giants hit with antitrust probes

European and British competition watchdogs are investigating an agreement between Google and Meta
US tech giants hit with antitrust probes

EU and UK regulators have opened antitrust probes into a 2018 deal between tech giants Google and Facebook owner Meta, which allegedly aimed to strengthen their dominance in the online advertising market.

The parallel probes will look at whether the so-called “Jedi Blue” agreement between the two companies hampered competition in markets for online display advertising services. Online display advertisements are graphic ads that appear on websites, mobile apps, and social media.

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said, if confirmed, the arrangement would have served to distort competition, squeezing rival ad tech companies, publishers, “and ultimately consumers.”

“We’re concerned that Google may have teamed up with Meta to put obstacles in the way of competitors who provide important online display advertising services to publishers,” said Andrea Coscelli, CEO of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

“If one company has a stranglehold over a certain area, it can make it hard for startups and smaller businesses to break into the market – and may ultimately reduce customer choice,” he added.

According to Coscelli, the CMA “will not shy away from scrutinizing the behavior of big tech firms... working closely with global regulators to get the best outcomes possible.”

Meanwhile, a Meta spokesperson said, as quoted by CNBC: “Meta’s non-exclusive bidding agreement with Google and the similar agreements we have with other bidding platforms have helped to increase competition for ad placements. These business relationships enable Meta to deliver more value to advertisers and publishers, resulting in better outcomes for all. We will cooperate with both inquiries.”

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