Google is the target of two lawsuits in European courts accusing the company of anti-competitive practices and abuse of dominant position in the online advertising market. The two cases, pending in courts in the UK and the Netherlands, seek material compensation from Google, which could reach €25 billion.
As the largest and most important provider of advertising technology – with a market share of more than 90%, Google is being investigated by the European Commission and its UK counterpart as authorities seek to determine whether the company’s dominant position is being exploited to gain an unfair advantage over rival companies in the advertising market. And the preliminary findings don’t look good. In fact, the French competition watchdog imposed a €220m fine on Google last year.
Johnny Ryan of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties told the BBC, “Google is being investigated for lawsuits – one is antitrust and the other is data protection.” He also revealed that the ongoing investigation has uncovered a number of breaches, resulting from increasing requirements imposed by regulators around the world. More seriously, “the fines we have seen so far from competition authorities have had absolutely no consequences” on the company’s business practices.
Damien Geradin of the Belgian law firm Geradin Partners – which is involved in the Dutch case – said: ‘Publishers, including local and national news media, which play a vital role in our society, have long been affected by Google’s anti-competitive behaviour.
“It’s time for Google to take responsibility and pay for the damage it has caused to this important industry.
“That’s why today we are announcing these actions in two jurisdictions to seek damages for publishers in the EU and UK.”
Separately, the case before the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal is seeking damages for website owners who use banner ads. If successful, the initiative would bring compensation to a large and diverse group of businesses that depend on Google for advertising revenue for damages caused by the US company’s anti-competitive practices.
Given the complexity of the action and the very large number of plaintiffs, the lawsuit could take years to reach a final verdict.